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The 13th Juror

[review pending]

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

2312

Hadn’t really read anything by Robinson before but when I read the collection he edited I vowed to track something down by him. And then forgot about that until I saw this on the “new” shelf at the local library. It’s big. And thick. And sort of a world-building book so you have to be sort of into that aspect of it to plow through the actual plot which is sort of spare (but interesting) and is much less central to this book than the explanation of the world in 2312 and how we got there. I liked it but I was reading it at a time when I was flattened by a cold and could focus a lot on it and it didn’t have to move me along. I’ll try reading another book by Robinson but maybe one that is a little shorter next time.

24 Hours

I almost did not pick this book up. It looked like one of those typical torture stories where a criminal sociopath decides to make a family’s life a living hell, most likely by torturing and/or nearly raping all their female characters. This did not come to pass. The book is more interesting than that, though Isles is still a little tawdry for my tastes. This family fights back. So when the daughter is kidnapped at the same time as the husband -- away on a business trip -- is held hostage until the kidnapers get their money, the family fights back. It’s not super predictable but it’s not a bunch of new twists and turns either. Isles has set up an interesting scenario with some predictable Iles flavor (the little diabetic girl. we cringe as she eats Captain Crunch and wonder if she’ll get her life saving insulin in time... does Iles do this just to get a tax write-off for medications?) and a decent resolution.

Abaddon’s Gate

Continuing to enjoy this series. This one gets a little weird (for me) with the injection of religion and a bit too much (again, for me) ruminating of the nature of evil and forgiveness and whatever. The rest of it continues to deliver although I can sort of see the writing on the wall, people you know and like in the series are going to die and get ready for it. Looking forward to see what happens next.

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.

Accelerando

This book was recommended to me by people who I told that I enjoyed .. I think The Passage? I had a hard time getting into it. I enjoyed the first chapter or so which seemed Gibson-esque, sort of cyberfuture sort of thing but then it went WAY off into future tech sorts of things and it kind of lost me. When everything is taking place in sort of some sort of sim or another, it can be hard to keep track of what is real and what is not real and I wound up not really feeling connected enough to the book to stay on top of real vs. sim stuff. Maybe a great book for other people, did not do it for me.

Acceptance

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

Access Restricted

A sequel to his other book, this pone follows the protagonist after she blows up the wifi and wins a temporary victory against the people who try to charge you for every (copyrighted) word you say in this dystopic novel. I thought this story was a little more interesting--they leave the dome, they learn more about other places, some of it takes place in Mexico--but there’s a lot of really grim stuff happening to some pretty young characters which, for whatever reason, I found a little tough to take. Loved it, but be warned, parts of it are heavy.

The Accidental Time Machine

I love time machine stories! And this one started off pretty good. Guy at MIT finds an accidental time machine, tries to figure out how it works as he deals with a bunch of other things in his life. But then things get weird. He goes so far into the future that things are weird. And then SO far into the future that things are unrecognizable. And there’s this naive gal the protagonist meets along the way who you’re worried he’s going to have an inappropriate relationship with (this is scifi after all). It wraps up neatly but I didn’t like the second half of the book as much as I enjoyed the first half.

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.

Adulthood is a Myth

Such fun! I’d seen this comic online but didn’t know it had turned into a book. I laughed out loud at a lot of these comics which are basically short vignettes about trying to be an adult and also being incredibly awkward. Enjoyable and relatable.

After Atlas

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

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

This book was just fine. A light mystery in a small town with a female heroine who is lumpy and not at all sure of herself. I enjoyed getting to know the quirky townspeople and I’ll probably read a few more of these. The only downside for me was that it’s from the 90s and there’s some pretty backwards stuff in terms of gender and race issues. Like even if you have a backwards townsperson, I don’t think you’d put semi-racist words in their mouth in a book in 2019? I found it took me out of the story somewhat and if it keeps up too much would probably turn me away from the series.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

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

Agency

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

Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians

Any book with evil librarians in the title is going to go right on my reading list. This was an enjoyable romp with a main character who swears he is unlikeable but who isn’t really. It’s the start of what will hopefully be a series of books of a vaguely magical kid, raised by normals, waging this sort of war where the evil librarians are the bad folks. It’s fun and sort of meta for a YA novel and I enjoyed it a lot.

All Clear

This was the second book of Willis’s two-parter that began with Blackout. Unfortunately I did not know this when I started Blackout and so I got to the end of it and then realized the story would be wrapped up in a second book, a second book that was only held by three libraries in Vermont. I am a bit of a pill about buying new books, I just don’t do it, so I was immensely grateful when a friend gave me an advanced reader copy of this book. It was terrific. It actually resolved without killing off too many main characters. I enjoyed the story. Willis’s theme of missed messages makes a lot of this book -- the main plotline of which involves time travelers from 2060 going back to the Blitz and getting a little stuck there -- really tensemaking. Sometimes almost too much so. Every time chatacters walked past each other or just missed eachother I was reading it going AAAAAAAAGGGGHHH. So I guess htis means it was well-written and I love Willis’s writing generally, but I find the ongoing tension in this pair of books somewhat tough to deal with. So well written, so much great historical information, but a little nail-bitey for my tastes.

All Fall down

A student gave me this book when I told her I liked mysteries. I have no idea why the cover has dominoes on it or what the title is about. I enjoyed it, but it seemed to hit all the hot-button issues: sexual abuse, kink, lebianism, lady cops, sisterhood, a bunch of others. It was fine, I wasn’t unhappy that I read it, but sort of made me appreciate the regular authors I enjoy more than I already do.

All Our Wrong Todays

This may be one of my favorite time travel books. I hope it becomes a movie. The author is a screenwriter and there’s definitely some movie-like pacing in this book where you have to turn a page in the story to figure out what just happened. It’s complex and not worth explaining in detail but it’s basically a modern day time travel novel where “mistakes were made” that tries to look at the question about what would happen if you went back in time not too far and made some fairly large mistakes. Enjoyable read.

All Rights Reserved

A college friend wrote this book! It’s a dystopian YA novel about a future world where everything is copyrighted, even the words you say out loud. It’s an interesting premise and the lead character opts out by refusing to say anything. Chaos ensues. Sort of. I liked a lot of the specific bits of social commentary in this book--food for poor people is made form 3d printers and one of the most coveted things you can get is a real orange--but I felt weird about the overall environment. I mean it’s tailored to me since there’s a climactic scene in a Very Rare Library but the whole thing was just super-bleak. If bleakness is your thing, this is a well thought out and well implemented cautionary tale about copyright and the increasing corporatization of everything.

All Star

Set in a small Vermont town this is a classic townie versus jock story that Lonergan does a great job at explaining and showing without telling you how to feel about it. As someone who lives in a small Vermont town and deals with some of the same issues, it rang really true to me.

All Systems Red

Librarian friend on Twitter told me to read this and I’m so glad he did. I felt like I was stuck in a web of sentient-life-form scifi books which I did not enjoy entirely and I kept wanting stuff more like... I wasn’t sure what. Single POV, preferably something robotic or human. Not a book I felt was smarter than me. With characters who weren’t too whiny. So this book, subtitled, The Murderbot Diaries #1, is a great book about a neurotic humanoid robot and how they became, sort of, free. And it’s all one POV the whole way through, and the books have some humor but not tons of it. And the socially anxious robot feels, to me, like a totally normal character who I enjoyed tromping along with. Hooray for this book, so glad I read it.

All That I Have

[review pending]

All the Birds in the Sky

Loved this book by a friend of a friend about an unlikely friendship between a witch and a mad scientist at the end of the world. Also: birds!

All the Devils Are Here

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

All the Names They Used for God

Simply a great collection of short stories about all different things but one thing they seem to share is a sense of poignancy. Each story has some small element of magic, but not in a “watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat” way, but in a “What if mermaids were real?” way. I enjoyed every single story in this book and really look forward to reading more of whatever Sachdeva writes.

Altered Carbon

A great novel with the scifi premise "What would happen if you could put your consciousness in other bodies and an entire economy built up around that? Some of the results are cool, some of them are gross, many are in-between. A lot of it depends on who you are or what your status is. I enjoyed this because it’s a romp and I bet it makes for good television. I didn’t enjoy it because in some places it seemed gratuitously gruesome and was haunting. Will probably try to read the next one.

The Amber Spyglass

Hey this didn’t turn into some huge war book like it hinted that it might! I was expecting either a lackluster petering out of some of the topics (like Hunger Games) or some sort of over the top religious allegory that I didn’t understand (Narnia) but this was understandable and interesting and it wrapped up just fine. Perfect summer reading series.

Ambergris

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.

The American Agent

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

Ammonite

I enjoyed this book about colonizing a new planet with a cast of characters who just happen to all be women. There is a certain kind of female scifi novel that I enjoy which has conflicts but not war and the general premise that “another wold is possible” and this is the sort of world that Griffith outlines in her novel. As someone who can get tired of the endless conflicts that seem designed primarily to move the plot along, this character-based semi-worldbuilder book was gratefully appreciated.

Among the Mad

Enjoyed this one more than the previous one. Maisie is coming to grips with her wartime service and is also deciding to try to be a better friend to Priscilla. Along the way she gets a camera, meets and works with the people at Scotland Yard and learns a lot about mental illness and chemical warfare.

Anathem

I got really excited after reading Seveneves that maybe Stephenson was back writing things that I would enjoy reading. I’ve always liked even most of his older stuff but got off the train at Baroque Cycle. Turns out this story (some sort of possible future where the braniacs are split off from the normals for thousands of years) was more like BC than the other books and I struggled through it hoping against hope that it would turn into something a little more accessible for me. I have friends who LOVED this book so I don’t mean to put anyone off of it but MAN was it a slog for me.

Ancestral Night

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

Ancillary Justice

This was a hard one for me to get through. A little too many “weird” names and a little too many concepts that I wasn’t sure I was understanding. i feel like something was supposed to be understood about how the different cultures dealt with gender but I didn’t understand it and instead of it being freeing (hey you don’t know what gender any of the characters are!) I found it confusing. A good story told in my least favorite “alternating timelines where only one of them is truly interesting” format. A suggestion from an internet person, I think I’ll head back to the Expanse for when I need space war stuff.

The Androids Dream

Another totally fun book from Scalzi. This one was, I was sure, working its way to a shaggy dog story conclusion but actually it was much more satisfying than that. Equal parts silly and serious, this book about a future universe where the earth is just one of many inhabited planets and there’s some diplomatic intrigue that needs working out was engaging from start to finish.

Annihilation

Apparently “weird fiction” is a thing. I loved this first-in-a-trilogy book about a spooky area in the US and the people who are part of an expedition to find out more about it. Except it’s not that simple, the leader of the group is some sort of control freak, one of the members had a husband who was (sort of) killed in a previous expedition, and everyone’s a little strange. It’s a lot of “show me don’t tell me” exposition which I appreciated. Looking forward to the other two novels.

The Anomaly

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.

Another Brooklyn

Not sure how I hadn’t read anything of Woodson’s before. This is a great coming of age story of a young black woman whose family moved from Tennessee to Brooklyn after what we (later) learn was the death of her mother. The book is told in a series of vignettes flashing back to periods of her upbringing from the perspective of what we know is an accomplished professional woman. She tells the stories of her thick-as-thieves and we eventually learn what happened to all of them. Her father at one point finds religion with the national Of Islam and there is a lot of slightly-removed influence of these various parts of her life. While the novel is not autobiographical Woodson did draw from her life experiences and this book does seem very very real.

Antarctica

Not totally certain how this wound up on my To Read pile but it was so terrific. Interestingly even though the book is 15+ years old a lot of the “tech"aspects of it did not read as old and dated at all. Ultimately, it’s an ecotopic novel about who owns Antarctica and "What is happening to the planet” with the veneer of Antarctica over the whole thing. Robinson has a tendency to go on sort of long about historical stuff (a problem I’m having with another novel of his I’m reading) but it mostly wraps up in a way the reader will like. Great imagery, great mostly-likeable human characters. I learned some things. I wanted to go there.

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.

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.

Appleseed

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.

Arabella of Mars

Picked up this book at the college library and couldn’t figure out of it was for adults or teens. Turns out a lot of people had the same question so I feel a bit better bout my confusion. this is an odd Regency/Steampunk mashup in a world where Mars is colonized but people still take horse drawn carriages. I’ve been reading so much hard science lately that my disbelief suspension was pretty difficult. It’s got an engaging plot and I was carried around by the story, but it’s confusing for people who really like scifi (they have ships... that go to Mars... sort of...) and I wonder if it would be a little confusing for people just looking for a YA romp. And, spoiler alert, it ends with a wedding proposal which... bleh. I enjoyed this well enough but probably won’t seek out the sequels.

The Archivist: A Novel

One of those books that is more historical fiction than just fiction, this novel about a librarian and a student and his history and hers had some really captivating moments, many of them towards the end, but felt like a slog through a lot of it. It may just be that I’m not interested enough in literary history and/or the poetics of long doomed relationships but I found all the frosty characters that inhabited this book really tough to understand and get behind. The book is wonderfully written and probably better for someone who wasn’t me.

Arkhangelsk

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.

Armada

It’s really hard to follow Ready Player One and I’m happy Cline finally did that. This book has a lot of the things that made RP1 terrific but a few downsides that made it not quite so much of a romp. It may be a character flaw with me, but I find endless battle scenes in text really difficult to follow. There were a few of these, one notable one early on and I was concerned for a big chunk of the book that the book was going to end in some epic fifty page battle. It doesn’t. The characters in this book are neat, the plot moves along and I mostly liked it but it took a while to get going and didn’t have quite the “Wheeee!” feeling of the first book.

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.

Artemis

I love it when non-diverse authors make a serious effort to write a book with a fully diverse cast. And yet, it’s hard because as a member of one of those categories (Weir who is male is writing about a Muslim woman as a lead character) I felt like the character was unfamiliar to me. Which is probably fine, unless it isn’t. And it’s easy to pick nits so I’ll leave that be. Otherwise this is a Weir-ish (i.e. a lot of hard science within an actual story) novel about a colony on the moon and what the politics and practices of that sort of place would look like. Our protagonist is a non-practicing Muslim woman who just happens to also be a genius and a smuggler. And a great cast of other characters who are all on the moon thanks to the Kenyan space program. If you liked the Martian but wish it had some women in it, you’ll probably like this.

Artificial Condition

More Murderbot! I’d been slogging through a bunch of scifi lately wondering if i was just over it but it turns out I was just reading the wrong scifi. This story was fun, different from the first and made me want to read the third. Nice to be excited about scifi again.

As Lie Is to Grin

This book took a long time to coalesce, for me. It’s a story about a young black man at the University of Vermont and goes backwards in time talking about his first (?) real girlfriend but also about his difficulties adjusting to college at UVM. Since I knew the author was also a young black man at UVM I was very curious how much overlap there was with the author’s own life and this sort of sidetracked me from the plot of the story which was always a little hard to get a handle on. I’d lke to read more by this author but this one didn’t really work for me and if it had been longer I probably would have stopped reading it.

Ascension

Another spacer with a diverse cast but this one was a little too over into the “complex cast” side for me. The title character is a woman of color who wants to be a spaceship engineer. She’s trained but she’s a “dirtheel” and has never actually been in the sky. She’s also managing chronic pain and a weird sister who is some sort of a new age therapist and a judgey pain in the ass. Lots of people die. There’s a poly lesbian romance. I totally appreciated what Koyanagi did with this book, but I found that reading about someone who was experiencing chronic pain was actually just too painful for me (and some of the mushy stuff just went on too long, this is my issue not an issue with the book). Great for most people, not the greatest for me.

The Associate

I feel like I need a whole new category here for genre fiction or maybe just summer reading. This was another summer reading book. It was okay. Moved along well, interesting plot. However, I felt that the writing wasn’t really up to the plot that had been devised. By the last few pages of the book I felt that there were a dozen loose ends to wrap up and I missed a few of them. The story is a somewhat complicated legal thriller about a guy at a law firm who thinks he has uncovered something unsavory about one of the law firms big pharmaceutical clients. It used to be that you could only have Nazis play the totally unsympathetic roles, now I guess you can have Big Pharm as well. The story is inteersting if somewhat far fetched and maybe I’m just slow but the wrap up at the end wasn’t quite obvious enough for me so some details remain a bit of a mystery.

Atlas Alone

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

Atlas of Unknowns

Picked this up on a libraryt’s booksale shelf which, I’ll be honest, an awful lot of my pleasure reading comes from. It’s a really interestingly complicated story of two sisters growing up without a mother in a somewhat rural part of India in a not very well off family and the different paths their lives take and how they come back together. I loved the different groups of people that sort of played off each other: Christian Indian people versus Hindu Indian people. Indian people who live in the West versus those who have come right from India. Older generations versus younger generations. Men versus women. Fulfilled versus unfulfilled people. Liars versus truth tellers. All of these groups dance around each other and figuring out who is in which groups and why is an interesting exercise. The actual plot here is almost secondary to watching all the interpersonal relationships play themselves out in various ways. So interesting.

The Atrocity Archives

I had a hard time maintaining momentum through this book even though i really like Stross and found the storylines pretty entertaining. Turns out I did not learn until after I finished the whole thing that it originated as two novellas that were sort of smushed together into one book. Which would explain a lot of things. I may try some other Stross titles but I think the Laundry series may not click with me.

Attack Surface

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

Authority

Such a great creepy book. In this installment we learn more about the organization which has been sending expeditions into Area X. It’s definitely a lot more of a weird bureaucracy procedural than the previous book but I still found weird little bits that I enjoyed.

Autonomous

This book is so deliciously dense with things to think about. It takes place in a possible future where we have humans that are autonomous or indentured, and robots that are the same. Watching the interplay of these groups, overlaying a complex story of corporate greed and various kinds of responses to it (both legal and extralegal) is a fun and delightful romp of a sci fi novel

The Aviary

Grabbed it from a booksale shelf at a teeny library. I liked the cover and I wanted to read about a big spooky magician house and not be stuck in the Jonathan Strange universe which, quite frankly, I did not like. This was a great YA book about a girl being raised by her mother while taking care of a very old woman in a big spooky house after the resident magician had died. And there is a big birdcage out back with noisy birds. Fun to sort of see where it’s going, some nice friendship and a very female-centered novel. Enjoyable.

Await Your Reply

This was fun and complicated, a lot to take in regarding mental health, identity and what it means to be “who you are.” Psychological semi-mystery that leaves you looking for clues and retracing steps at the end. You’re never sure how the various characters are going to intersect and once you find out, it’s surprising. Compelling.

Axis

A follow up to Spin only with all new characters. The character that was the center of the last book is basically dead and one of the other main characters has a sot of side role in this book. I liked but did not love this story which had a new central figure, a quasi-interesting female dilettante who is trying to figure out what happened to her father. The plot is great some of the character development stuff (particularly with the female characters) is not so great but there’s less apocalyptic end of the world stuff which i appreciated.

Babylon’s Ashes

I was pleased with my capsule Twitter review of this one: Am detecting loose theme. Stage setting, team building, new backstory to a central character, oops, something got fucked, let’s call in reluctant James Holden, wow it’s even more fucked than we thought, how will they make it out, they made it, denouement. In short this book has a little less of a “Everyone is nearly dead” ending and more of a “there is a terrible threat they need to neutralize” aspect. In any case, one of the ones I liked the most. Complicated family stuff going on.

The Bad Beginning

I hadn’t read any of these books before so I started at the beginning. This one wasn’t bad. It’s got sort of a cloying narrator, three kids in sorry circumstances, and a lot of people around them who are making those circumstances worse. The illustrations are great, the plots develop, such as they are, and the sher depth of description alone makes these books worthwhile for an adult reader as well as straightforward enough for a younger reader.

Bad Houses

Sara is a friend and I’d been meaning to read this for a while. It takes on some pretty heavy stuff, both general topics like addiction and bad parenting but also just STUFF. The things we have and why we have it. The central characters are two nearly-adults one of whom has a mom who is an estate sale organizer and other other of whom has a mom who is a hoarder. Things aren’t easy for either of them. They find each other. This book is beautifully illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil and all fits together as a really wonderful slice of life that is at once relatable but also contains people who we may have never met before.

Bag Men

This book was great. Then again, I had no expectations. My sister knew a guy who knew the guy who wrote it. She lent it to my boyfriend to read who then lent it to me. I enjoyed it. It’s a gritty cop story from Boston in the 50s and 60s, so while I recognized some of the settings, I didn’t recognize the culture at all. In fact, a major plot point revolves around the fact that Boston is NOT San Francisco and things that are obvious to any teenager now were unknown to cops even back then. The plot is straightforward cop story, and had a feel to it much like The Wire with a bunch of characters coming in and out of it at various points. For a short novel, a lot happens.

Bandwidth

Not even sure how I found this book which is basically a “Grisham, but for political consultants who incidentally know how the internet works” It’s a sort of dystopian near future where we all have a feed that we can access which gives us information, news, friends communications etc. But what if the feed could be hacked? What sort of power would that give you, and not give you? The book is a little plodding, definitely written in a fast-thriller sort of way, but I stayed interested and I’ll be sure to read the next one.

The Bangalore Detectives Club

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.

Bao

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.

Barbary Station

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

Barn 8

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

The Beautiful Mystery

The only book that doesn’t take place in Three Pines and only contains some of the cops. This is a fascinating side story for Penny, taking place entirely in a monastery in the northern part of the country. The central question is about plainchant or Gregorian chants and a murder that takes place among a cloistered order. Interesting, and some of the same storyline with Gamache and Beauvoir and the director of the cops and their conflicts. I enjoyed this and plowed right through it.

Before Mars

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

Behemouth

Just when I was getting comfortable with Watts and his ability to have terrific female characters who aren’t always just afraid in whatever dystopian night mare he has dreamed up for them, this book comes along. I liked it. I liked knowing what had happened after some of the stuff in the first two books but gosh the sadism was really hard to take. A much more central role for one of the awful characters and a lot of close-up sadist stuff including a multi-chapter rape of a decently liked character. Did not like.

Bellows Falls

I may be at a stopping point with these for a while. I liked this book! I liked looking into the background of Bellows Falls and I thought the storyline was compelling and made me keep reading. I had originally checked out this book via Open Library and the version I got was full of OCR errors so I had to wait and get it the next day from the actual public library (which carries all of them) which threw off my rhythm. Happy to have been reading a lot more so far this year. Now I have to branch out some more.

The Best American Comics 2016

I don’t think Iv’e read any of the books in this series before and I really should. Roz Chast was the editor of this year’s collection of graphic novels and comics. I was surprised how many of them I had read, but also slightly frustrated at how many of them were only excerpts which would drop you right in the middle of a story. Some, most, of them stood on their own but a few did not and I found them an odd choice for this volume.

The Best American Short Stories 2011

I love these collections but usually there are at least one or two stories that I find wincingly terrible. Not so this year. Brooks has assembled an interesting assortment of very different stories that don’t all have that “Written for the New Yorker” feeling to them. While there are a lot of the same themes threading throughout--bad marriages, Rome, quirky childhoods, lost loves, the usual--the stories don’t all feel “of a type” the way these collections usually do. I raced through this set and really enjoyed the range and variety of writing.

A Better Man

I was a little concerned when I started this that it was going to be a LOT about the flood that happens and not enough about the general central mystery. I was wrong. This is a nice complex story, just like all the others. Some drama about what is going on in the Surete, a mystery involving people in or near the local town, and some stuff about the town itself, especially Clara and what she is up to with her painting. It’s a little odd because they never once mention her dead husband Peter which I thought might be part of this. No one major dies but there are some big changes, as always, and we’ll see how that goes.

A Better World

Saying this is not as quite as good as the first book is only a small negative since I liked the first book SO MUCH and this one was a little less interesting and a little more high-body-count. Still good. Still keeping me flipping the pages and wondering what happens next.

Beyond Heaven’s River

[review pending]

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl

Joyce Carol Oates does YA! I liked this book a lot. The YA-ness of it made me pretty certain that it wasn’t going to be as over-the-top creepy as some of Oates' other stuff, and I’ve been on a YA kick lately. The loose story outline is about a loudmouth kid who gets in trouble (or set up) for “threatening to blow up the school.” The resident weirdo jock girl comes to his aid. They deal with a lot of crap from school and parents. Things somewhat resolve the way things in high school always sort of do, meaning not really and not definitively.

The story is told in alternating chapters, third person with Big Mouth and then first person with Ugly Girl. This is not difficult to keep up with and gives the story some depth especially when you’re looking at these kids and thinking “Why did he/she DO that?” it doesn’t have a lot of dangly parts that don’t make any sense. If I had one criticism it would be that all the supporting family for these kids seem a little two-dimensional, first bad, then good, then possibly bad again. This may be due to the fact that we mainly see the family through the eyes of the teenagers, but sometimes it’s tough to see them as fully formed characters the way two main teens are. This is a warts and all YA book that does manage to deal with complicated teen issues without feeling like an issue-oriented book.

Big Nate in a Class by Himself

Picked this up because it reminded me of the Wimpy Kid books.Enjoyed it but not quite as much as the Wimpy Kid books.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy

A great combination of inter-human and extra-human issues of assimilation and difference and a young female heroine of color who is up to grappling with it. There are a lot of parts of her young life in which she is told she must be a certain way or become a certain thing In some cases these choices are made for her. In some she has agency. Watching her figure out which is which is a fascinating process. I liked all of these different books (and the “bonus story” I guess, in the middle) but felt it was its strongest when she was learning about her talents and powers and skills, less interesting when it was just part of a big war of all against all sort of conflict. Having people of color, and especially women being the heros of their own story is just a great thing to read

Birds in Fall

Part book about birds, part book about plane crashes (and grief and loss and moving on) this book was a little tough for the first few chapters (Spoiler: everyone dies in the first chapter) but improved after that. Great Canadian setting, great bird stories, real feeling interplay between characters. I liked it. It was long enough. It was not too long.

Birds of a Feather

Second in the series. Also enjoyed it. it takes a few books in a series to figure out if you’re enjoying them since there’s a lot of exposition that takes place trying to fill you in on what has happened in past books. Some authors are better at this than others. Winspear does pretty well.

The Birdwatcher

I liked this book. It slotted in nicely with the other “moody seascape” books I read last year but this one is a UK story and it’s more of a mystery thriller than just some gloomy fiction. Had nor read Shaw before, picked this up because it was on the “new” shelf at the library. Enjoyed the story, the backstory and the general pace of the thing. Been reading a lot lately, glad to have good books to do it with.

The Bitter Taste of Murder

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.

Black Diamond

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

Black Hole

[review pending]

Black Widow

No art restoration in this one! This book was a long treatise on how people get recruited to do stuff for ISIS and includes the recruitment of a woman from Israel to get recruited by ISIS. New character! But also a lot of terrorism stuff which is a little... not my thing. I enjoyed this book enough but I also felt more like I was paging through it more than hanging on every plot point.

Blackout

This book is the first in a two-partner which I really really wish I’d known before I started it. It’s a great combination of some of Willis' earlier time travel sorts of books along with the weird missed signals theme that carries through a lot of Passages. This book takes us to the London area during the Blitz where three (possibly four) time travelers are doing different historical research topics all of which get a little messed up. The book is rich in history and Willis' excellent writing though it’s a little ... tense for me and especially now that I’ve gotten to the end of it and realize I have to start trolling the libraries to find a way to get the second book or wait for it to be out in paperback. Another great book by Willis, wish I’d had both parts.

Blasphemy

This book was on the NEW table at my library. It had one of those “what did you think?” cards in the back of it and one of the other patrons from my library had written “A little oversexed...” in the back. I’m not totally sure I agree but there are a lot of stories of love, loss, romance and a few other things. I’ve read most of Alexie’s other works, though not recently, and some of these stirred my memory but most were either new or seemed new to me. And they’re SO great.

Alexie has a way of writing about Native American issues (he’s from the Spokane nation) without seeming pedantic or, more importantly, prescriptive. Like, his characters are Native but the point of a lot of the stories is that they’ve got the full range of winners and losers and no-shows and everything else. You get this even more by reading 15-20 stories with differing characters than I have by reading his pieces with the same characters all the way through. Really enjoyed this. Not oversexed.

Blindness

This was a really heavy book and one of the ones that stuck with me the most of all the books I read this year. The premise is very basic: people start losing their sight for no reason whatsoever. A class system develops where the sighted quarantine the blind. The blind are left to live like animals in an institutional setting. Things degrade. One man’s wife is taken away with the blind, however she is sighted. She is the one who observes what is going on.

Saramago really spells it all out and this story is tough to read. There’s lots of weird sex and shitting in hallways and bad behavior all around. His writing is beautiful which is in stark contrast to the ugliness that is the human behavior in this story.

The Blonde

This book is super violent. It’s got a great premise about some nanotech blood manipulation that can cause horrible things to happen and it’s one of those thrillers that (mostly) takes place in a single compressed day where no one gets enough sleep and everyone gets the shit kicked out of them. Not for everyone. I mostly liked it.

Blood Memory

My sister could not remember which Greg Iles book this was when I was talking to her about it until I said “You know, the one where the lead character is getting raped and she bit the guy’s throat out and killed him, that one?” and she said “Oh yeah!” Not for the faint of heart, this is another great whodunit by Iles which has a lot of disturbing sexual abuse in it. That is usually a total put-the-book-down dealbreaker for me, but for some reason Iles seems to have enough sympathy with his female characters that I don’t see his writing as rape porn and enjoy figuring out what happens at the end. That said, if this sort of thing turns your stomach, you will not like this book.

Bloodstream

I like these medical mysteries. This one is by the same woman who wrote the medical space mystery that I enjoyed last month. This one is similar in some ways. Something is making the teens in a small Maine exceptionally murderously angry. A new doctor just moved to town to help her own teenaged son with his anger and behavioral problems afte the death of her husband, his dad. She finds the typical New England smalltown stuff a little hard to handle -- unfriendliness, reticence -- and this gets worse when she believes that there is something biological behind the temper outbreak.

There is a little too much weird medical dialogue that doesn’t add to the story, in both this and the other Gerritsen book I read -- seems to be a way for the author to establish bona fides early on -- but once you get beyond that (in this case an admittance to an emergency room where the doctors yell drug directives at each other for a few pages and you’re left thinking "huh?") and the story starts to unfold you appreciate that the author can also describe characters and not just diseases.

Bloom

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

Blue Mars

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.

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.

Body Surfing

Read this book for a book club. It was okay but not my thing.

Bomber’s Moon

Thirty of these books! Even though there are some people who are killed in this one, there is a little less of the creepy terrify-and0torture aspects that have put me off some of the previous ones. I enjoyed this, we’re back with Joe Gunther and people are doing well and no major character dies or gets grievously injured.

Book Lovers

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.

The Book of Air and Shadows

There has got to be a name for these specific sort of Davinci Code type mysteries where there’s a historical asect, some hidden thing from long ago turns up and then there’s some sort of dash for the item with a lot of different people crossing and double-crossing in a race across continents to search for it. The item is, always, soemthing that could change the face of history. I like these sorts of books. I liked the Dan Brown books fine also. They’re genre mystery types of books, but they kept the pages turning and gave me something to read while flying and that’s all quite good

In fact, this book was better than most because while I felt like I was following the action pretty well, I still wasn’t sure I knew whodunit until the very last pages and I sort of cared. There are a bunch of likeable and unlikeable characters in the whole thing and they weave into and out of each other’s lives. Nothing got too heavy but the plot was continually interesting.

The Book of Fate

This was a good summer reading by the river bank book. That is to say it moves fairly quickly, is not poorly written and is not totally offensive. Other than that, it was sort of “eh.” There is a big Masonic symbol on the book’s cover but unless I’m mistaken, Masonic conspiracy has very little to do with this book. This book also relies on one of my least favorite plot devices which is “crazy person with a gun and bizarre delusions” so that you really have no idea what he’s going to do, so whenever her showed up I’d sort of skim to the end of the section. Most of the rest of the characters were a decent combination of good and bad characteristics and the main protagonist was a decent sort. Good for beach reading, I wouldn’t even probably bother carrying it on a plane.

Book of Lies

Second book I’ve read for the kindle! This one was not as interesting. Had a lot of characters I sort of couldn’t get into, no characters I really enjoyed. Interesting story about the history of Superman and the search for an ancient book, a lot of son-father imagery and exposition. Some good cameos by librarians but ultimately not that awesome, though still a great page turner.

Book of Speculation

I really may need to reconsider whether I hate ALL books with multiple storylines in alternate chapters or just most of them because I loved this book and it does that thing. I think part of it is that usually I find one of the stories so much more compelling than the other one (looking at you Diamond Age) that it’s like reading one bad story and one good one. Not for this book. It’s a great tale with a librarian at the center and the two stories involve past and current generations of circus performers--a traveling circus in the late 1700s and the descendants of a circus mermaid in the current day. Enter a falling down house left to the kids by their weird dad and I was hooked. So good.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

This book combined two of my interests: packhorse librarians, and the Blue Fugates of Kentucky. Good. Stressful. Lots of rural small mindedness. A little too much of a foreshadowed romance which I felt sort of brought the whole thing into a less-interesting place. Best part was the author’s notes at the end where you can learn about why she chose these particular topics. Of particular note, the cover (which was how I decided to pick up this book) features a white woman’s hands; the main character in this book isn’t really white (which is part of the whole point). I found that one single bit obnoxious, but blame the marketers and not the author.

The Book Woman’s Daughter

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.

The Bookfair Murders

Not sure if it was the datedness of this book that caused me not to like it or just not my type of book. I won it in a library raffle with a bunch of other book-themed books and some cat food. I plowed through it despite sort of figuring out the angle of what was going on partway through. There’s a lot of publishing inside baseball going on here which is maybe interesting if that’s a world you inhabit but to me it was confusing and hard to keep track of. The book is at its strongest when it goes up to Nova Scotia but there’s such a wealth of description I sort of felt like the whole thing was a way to get the author a tax write-off for a vacation. Not great.

The Bookman’s Last Fling

This was too much like a Dick Francis book and not enough like a John Dunning book. Very little old/rare book stuff, too much horse racing stuff. Still a good read, but better for Francis fans than Dunning fans.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays

Books on the cover! Expected to like this book more, a story about a woman who inherits a bookstore and there are a series of clues left by her deceased relative that give her clues about her life. While I did appreciate the satisfying (if pat) ending, I found a lot of times the characters were doing things that, to me, did not make sense. There’s a lot of drama, a lot of “things seem to be going fine and then one person flips out” interactions. Two-dimensional characters, including the main ones, led me to believe that maybe there was something deeper going on but no, the people were just two-dimensional. Plus there’s a librarian who does offer some good information but is basically shown as a woman reading at her desk. What? There were a lot of odd plot holes (man died and headstone is all there and carved in three days, impossible!) that just took me out of the story. I did read it til the end, but would probably not recommend it to anyone.

Borderless

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

Borderliners

I think I am nearing the end of my patience with books that gradually mete out little bits of the story over time. This book is great, really terrific and Hoeg is wonderful. At the same time the combination of unreliable juvenile narrator, the jumping around of the timeline, and the “What is actually going on here?” aspect to the whole thing made this a bit less enjoyable than it might have been. Sometimes I think that this entire book list should be called “Books that were almost perfect except...” because there’s always a thing. In this book it was the above issues but also the ending which had pages and pages which were talking about the importance or relative issues concerning Time. Which were interesting but I was still struggling to pick up the plot line and it felt like a different essay by Hoeg that was tossed in here for reasons unknown. A good book. I read it in one sitting. I don’t really recommend that.

Bowery Girl

This was an odd YA book that friend gave me. It takes place in the late 18th Century and follows two dirt poor young women as they try to make sense of their world of violence and crime. One is a thief, the other is a whore. One doesn’t know how to read, the other is disdainful of anyone who would suggest that she might want to do somethign other than what she’s doing now. The book is full of bad sex and wanton violence and a lot of people in really destitute circumstances that don’t improve much at all as the book progresses. It was interesting enough to me, as an adult, but it seemed a little heavy to give to a teenager, though I readily admit that I may be out of touch with what teenagers are reading nowadays.

Braking Day

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.

Breach

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

A Bridge of Years

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

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Loved this book. Somehow missed it when it first came out. It’s the story of Oscar Wao a kid from the Dominican Republic whose family moves to New Jersey. But along the way we learn about his family’s cursed past, a lot of history about the DR and more about Oscar’s nerdy interests. Its hard to sum up this book because the different sections look at totally different characters and totally different time periods. The whole idea that there is a curse on the family is one that will be familiar to people who have read One Hundred Years of Solitude and even though this is a very different book, that theme is very familiar. I was really rooting for the Oscar character, the nerd character. You’re supposed to even though you know basically after reading the title that he is, in some way, totally doomed.

Brilliance

Suggested to me by a friend, this dystopian book is a bit like Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear. Suddenly for no particular reason people are being born smarter... a lot smarter. And what happens? The government implements a crackdown to keep these people under control. Which, as you might guess, backfires somewhat. A really good social type of thriller.

Broken Harbor

This is the first book in a while that I’ve really felt I had to drag myself through. The general storyline is good and French is a great writer but something about how she told this story, how long it went on and how many times the same stuff got retold in the course of figuring out whodunit made it super duper long and sloggish in a way that I am not usually used to from her. The interplay between the two detectives was the strongest part of this (and Scorcher and his sister) and the long long “But WTF was actually going on...?” discussions with the suspect(s) just seemed to go on forever.

Broken Window

I don’t know when I got off the Jeffrey Deaver train but I just decided I didn’t trust him to not have super creepy stories where the principals were tortured. But I do like Lincoln Rhyme, the disabled brilliant forensic scientist so I tried this one out when I saw it on the free shelf of the laundromat. It was worth it. Interesting and not too creepy. Talked about the world of data/information brokers and all the potential ways they could destroy someone’s life. I don’t think I’ll start up again with these books but glad I gave them another go.

Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud

Was sort of expecting a Da Vinci Code knock off here and got something that was both better and worse. Better because it was actually written by someone from Italy (in Italian and translated) which gives it a certain verisimilitude. Bad because it was a bit of a slog through religious history (specifically the history of the Shroud of Turin) with one of those dual plot devices which I always find a bit difficult. Bonus props for two strong female leads. Demerits for the huge swath of killings in the last pages of the book. Upshot: I liked it but I’d be a little more discerning about future books by this author.

Bruno, Chief of Police

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

The Brutal Telling

I swear I have been reading books other than these, but I just haven’t finished any of them yet. This is another in the series, a bit more close to home. Murder in the village! A villager suspected! Has a very dissatisfying resolution which winds up getting better resolved with the book after this one. On its own this book was a lot of bad mojo without the better feeling of a resolution where you felt the good guys won.

The Bug

Actually I read this book years ago but I somehow forgot to write it down. I really liked it. Its a story about tech development and (sort of) start up culture or what passed for it in 1984 and the havoc it wreaks on the psyche of the main character.

Bury the Lead

There is a lot going on in this novel - there’s a health scare at the hospital, Willy gets on pain meds, a woman is killed and tossed in the woods, someone is messing around with a local grocery warehouse. Mayor ties it up nicely as usual and this book has slightly less of the stress-points of some of the past novels where you worry about someone being in trouble or getting hurt (there is a little of that but not much). I enjoyed it, it’s a little dry a times but overall good and what I was expecting.

Bury Your Dead

Probably my favorite so far and not just because it has a library in it. This book is a great weaving of a few stories that all come together nicely. The loose threads from the last book’s mystery, a now-in-the-past terrible thing that has happened to Inspector Gamache in between that book and this one, and a new mystery about a murder in a library. The usual friction between the anglophones and the francophones is at a peak in this book which takes place largely outside of Three Pines.

Cabinet of Curiosities

I love the Cabinet of Curiosities concept but after reading three of the Agent Pendergast series I have concluded that these books are a little too creepy for me. I guess I like my thrillers with a little less horror? This book is an excellent romp through not just the Museum of Natural History but also creepy weird old curio collections and random odd falling down houses of New York. It also has the occasional surgery on living humans which ... too creepy!

The Calculating Stars

I had this suggested by an online simlar-reader and it took me a while to track it down since there was one (1!) hard copy of it in Vermont and the ebook was going to take a while (thanks TOR). Anyhow, I loved it, Having a lead character who is not just female but also Jewish felt like it had been a long time coming in any book not about the Holocaust or Nazis. And this book is about another sort of terrible mess. I love post-apocalyptic fiction but this book has more of the slow burn of climate change (thanks to a meteorite) and less of a sudden “Half of everyone dies” situation. I was hoping for a bit more “this is how we cope” but as it was I mostly enjoyed this look at Dr. York’s attempt to become to first woman in space in a slightly alternate future where Dewey really does defeat Truman.

Caliban’s War

I know there are a lot more of these and I am already concerned about when I am done with them. Epic space stories along the lines of Becky Chalmers (maybe not quite so evolved) where there is a lot of space stuff but also full realized female characters that aren’t all someone’s love interest. Lots going on in all of them and the second book was better than the first.

A Canticle for Liebowitz

This book, a scifi classic, was made up of three short stories. I liked the first one very much and the second two less so. The end is basically suffering porn and I was annoyed at it. People told me I could still get a lot out of this book if I don’t have much knowledge of the bible or Catholicism. I’m not sure they were correct.

The Cartographers

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

Cat Zero

I confess to not having known that LabLit (i.e. science-y fiction which is not necessarily scifi) was a thing. I am happy I do now! I got this book via Net Galley and stuck through the really weird cover to a thick book I very much enjoyed. it’s about science but you don’t really have to be a scientist to follow it. I admit there were a few places I glossed over the explanations but you can still follow the plot and the interplay of a lot of interesting and (mostly) likeable characters through a scientific mystery that is sort of layered on top of an interpersonal one.

Unlike some other books I’ve read recently (ahem ARTEMIS) this book has a smart female lead who is also believable in her strengths and weaknesses. She studies a very “unsexy” topic (FLV virus) and has a sort of crummy basement lab along with some other oddballs. Then she thinks she’s on to something. Then she tries to figure it out. This book got me continuing to pick it up to figure out what was going on and I liked the ups and downs of her character and the others. It was evocative without being flowery. Scientific without being either dull or didactic. Also, a minor concern, there is only one dead cat in evidence and it’s dealt with humanely and efficiently so if you’re someone with injured-animal-squeamishness (in which case may I suggest this website this book is still okay to read.

The Catch

This book seemed shorter than some of Mayor’s others and had a huge cast of characters that was a bit tough to keep up with. This time the gang goes to Maine ostensibly to straighten out a cop killing but they wind up finding out some stuff about some of their own when they are up there. I liked the story, enjoyed the cop work but got a little bogged down in the sheer number of side stories even though this book went by pretty quickly.

Catching Fire

Second in the series and I think the first book I’ve read from start to finish as an ebook. Also enjoyable.

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 Cellist

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.

A Certain Justice

[review pending]

The Changeling

Found this book on a list of YA books that everyone should read and was surprised I’d never seen it. Was SO GOOD, one of those great “growing up” books about young kids who have a fantasy life in the woods, one is from a sort of “normal” family and one is ... not. Snyder really captures that whole thing of being a weird kid and wanting your own world where you can accomplish things and not just fit into the mold someone else made for you. I’m surprised I missed this book when it first came out.

Chat

Another story within a story here. I like it now that Gunther has moved on to different relationships. This one has a lot of his family who are characters that I really like. It also tangentially involves the budding internet which was a little weird (I generally dislike it when someone does internet-stuff and do it wrong) but it was mostly in service to the main story and didn’t try to get too technical and fail at it.

Children of Time

I both loved and hated this book. Under the best of circumstances I have a hard time with books where alternating chapters are told by different people. I have an even harder time when one of those narrators is compelling and one is totally not. This book has half of it written by what is basically a sentient spider race. And while there is a great thought experiment here “How would a community of spiders who achieved sentience go about evolving?” I just did not care about it and wanted to get back to the humans on the giant ark who were having some real problems. So, this is a great book and well-written and all the rest, but I sort of hated half of it and loved half of it. The ending is satisfying and I am pretty sure I will not read the sequel.

Children of War

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

Chilling Effect

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

Cibola Burn

Each of these books seems to get a little more intense and I keep thinking “There is no way they are going to make it out of THIS” but they seem to. This is another interesting story of planet colonization (one of my faves) with the wrinkle this time that there are competing colonizers: one group of scrubby colonists and one giant megacorporation with a bit of an army. And then things go wrong. We see a few characters from previous books and there’s a whole lot of activity and action. I enjoyed it but it was nailbiting at the end.

The City & The City

Felt similarly about this book as I did about Mieville’s other book. I enjoyed it, it was clearly well thought out, but it didn’t have as much forward momentum as I was hoping for (and I finished it despite that). The premise of this book is fascinating and meted out over time. There are two cities, they occupy nearly similar geographic spaces and yet for “reasons” which we don’t totally know, they are different and people in each city assiduously stick to their own city going so far as to “unsee” things in their own cities. This has, as you can imagine, some interesting consequences for how to deal with crime, new faces and other issues.

The copy of this book that I had also had some Q & A with Mieville at the end of the whole thing which I found really useful because I was curious to know why he made some of the choices he made and it was great to get some extra information about this slightly cryptic title.

The City in the Middle of the Night

I loved Anders last book but this one was a little difficult. It starts out basically telling you some stuff about a particular planet, one that is “tidally locked” (i.e. there is one light side and one dark side) that has been colonized by humans a long time ago. And then, in alternating chapters, it reveals more but not all about their story. There are a lot of mystery animals and everything has an ersatz feel to it. The central characters are two female pairs who have complex relationships. Both are fraught an involve a lot of back and forth, but one is broke and one is not. In that regard, I felt like I was reading a YA novel with all the “I love her but I can never see her again!!” dramaz. And then right near the end, a thing happens which wrecked it all for me, and then the story piddled out, clearly moving towards a sequel, which I will not read. Again, I think Anders is a great writer and the problem with this book lies to a large degree with me, but it definitely fizzled out for me.

City of Girls

I was looking for a long book that would hold my attention and this is one. It’s an interesting coming of age story that is all told in retrospective and I misread some earlier part of it and wound up reading some of it “wrong” (there’s a central issue about it being told to a woman whose father figures in the story and I thought it was about the wrong guy) which was amusing but gave it an odd flavor. In any case, this was fun, long and a very female centered book in mostly the good ways. I appreciated a fun coming-of-age non-romance that had a bit of snazz in it. I am glad I read this. Still haven’t read Eat Pray Love and don’t plan to.

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway

Another great book in the Claire DeWitt series, this one with more backstory and nested cases within cases. You learn more about Claire, more about how she operates and more about what makes her both a brilliant detective and a hot mess. In this book she’s dealing with her own grief as well as trying to solve mysteries past and present. It’s a lot and takes its toll on her.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

I read another mystery book where the protagonist had a bit of a mental health issue and did not like it, strongly. This one is somehow different, better written, more diverse with a lot more empathy to more of the characters. It’s a weird complicated story, trying to solve a murder or a disappearance which may or may not have happened during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It was a romp, it was well done and I loved it.

Code to Zero

There’s really a schism between thriller mystery type books that were written pre super always on Internet, and books written afterwards. This is a nice mystery surrounding some smart scientist types and something that happens with the space progam. There are flashbacks to when they were all in college together, and then the main story takes place in the late fifties when one person wakes up with no memory in a random park men’s room and has to reconstruct his life. Better than most of the summer reading I’ve been plowing through this season.

Codex

I read this stupid book again by accident. Didn’t like it as much the second time.

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 Collapsing Empire

For some reason I always forget how much I love Scalzi’s novels. I saw this one at the library and was stoked to have found a newish novel by him that I hadn’t read yet. And it was funny... the general central plot is all blabla trade war and blabla diplomacy. But it’s told with a bunch of interesting and totally relate=able characters so you really want to find out how the whole thing winds up. And I had a little trouble with the ending, not that I didn’t like it but that I sort of feel I maybe didn’t understand it? So now I have to read about the book in addition to reading the book. And hopefully remember to read more Scalzi before I forget how much I like his writing.

The Collectors

This book was on a popular reading table at the school I work at and I noticed it was about libraries. I guess Baldacci has a whole slew of these books and this one felt like being dropped in the middle somewhat. It’s a story about cons and rare books and libraries and Washington DC and killers and spies and double-crossers. It kept me interested while I was reading it but one of the main plot points didn’t wrap up and now I feel like I have to consider reading the sequel. I’m not totally sure I want to go all in with this particular series, though I enjoyed some of the scenes featuring the library and librarians and there are little fun parts for library lovers.

The Colour of Law

I liked but did not love this Grishamesque novel about a high powetred lawyer who decided to do the right thing. Part of it may be that I don’t know Giminez’s bona fides. That is, I know he used to be a Dallas lawyer working for a firm and is now in solo practice but... I don’t know how much he maybe is actually like the slightly clueless main guy. There were a lot of casual racist tropes tossed about and I don’t know the author well enough to know if he did his research or if he was just lazy. Women are treated fairly poorly and not given a lot of agency. So, it’s a good legal thriller, but doesn’t deliver more than your average formulaic one. A good book if you’ve never read the genre before. Disappointing if you’re already pretty well acquainted.

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.

The Company She Kept

Was so excited to have a huge long plane ride to go on and a NEW MAYOR BOOK to read. Enjoyed this book, did not love it. It’s the story of a close companion of Gail Zigman’s getting muredered in a hate-crime fashion and a lot of dogged police work to find the killer. I found it a bit more dull than Mayor’s other books. I was mindful of all the rehashing that is done in every book (so new readers know why Willy has one arm, for example) and I think maybe the tension in this book was supposed to be because maybe we were supposed to feel that Gail did it? But I never did. Not a ton of Vermont scenery, a LOT of “interagency cooperation” porn and what looks like a lot of set up for later books where we learn about Gail’s other political aspirations. Liked it but was not nuts about it.

The Complete Concrete

It’s been a while since I’ve read a really good graphic novel. I thought this one was going to turn out to be a superhero type comic but it totally wasn’t. This book is a collection of the first ten Concrete comics. Concrete is the name of a guy made of concrete. You can read more about his origin story in, I think, the second chapter. He decides that since he’s stuck in a super-strong body with keen eyesight, he’s going to try to travel and help people and do some other stuff. He succeeds partly, accompanied by a pretty lady doctor and a “I’m writing a novel” personal assistant guy who is always meeting chicks.

What makes this book stand apart is the excellent illustration -- I can’t imagine how hard it must be to make a 1200 pound man made of cement into a sympathetic character -- as well as the compelling storylines. All the characters are complex and the illustrations are both very good sort of “classic” comic style while also stretching the form somewhat. I finished this book very very eager to pick up the next one.

The Confessor

This one was a little more gruesome than some of the other ones I have read. Lots of interesting overlap between Catholicism and Judaism particularly surrounding the Holcaust. I always appreciate that Silva puts a coda at the end of his books talking about which historical things he talks about are true and which are not true.

The Consequences of Fear

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.

Constance

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.

The Constant Gardener

[review pending]

Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology

An amazing arrangement of stories from people who you’ve heard of that all have Vermont as one of the extra characters. So great. Perfect for underblanket winter reading.

Crooked Little Vein

Picked this up on a library booksale cart. I’ve long been an admirer of Ellis’s essays but hadn’t read any of his novels. I figured from the title and description this was going to have weird drug stuff in it and... that’s not really it. It’s a fun hard boiled detective story set in more or less current times that has a lot of ancillary “weird shit” happening. Some of that is drug use, some of it is odd fetish stuff, some of it is weird government stuff. A lot of it would have, probably, seemed more weird in 2008 than it does in 2017 with the ubiquity of weirdness thanks to always-on internet and these weird times we find ourselves in. Not that this detracts from the depth of the story. This is a great short lively read and I look forward to picking up more of Ellis’s stuff.

Cross Bones

I liked this book okay when I read it, but compared to Reichs' other books it’s not that great. The protagonist is a forensic anthropologist who makes a discovery about some old old bones in Israel. Then the rest of the book goes off on the “Is this Jesus?” angle. Temperance Brennan annoys me. She’s too concerned with her looks and her relationship and for all of her supposed smarts dealing with dead bodies, her attention to criminal procedure and details is always overshadowed by whatever outfreakage she is dealing with. At the outset of this book, Reichs outlines a list of facts -- actual anthropological information about recent digs and discoveries in Israel and Palestine -- which is the basis for this book. It becomes clear at some point that while the story will have titillating aspects as fas as the “Is this Jesus?” direction goes, ultimately the answer would have to be “No.” because she’d wind up alienating all of her Christian readership potentially. For an author whose books rank in the triple and quadruple digits on Amazon.com, this is a point that probably matters. The ending was unsatisfying and way too pat, though I’m not honestly sure what I was expecting.

The Crowded Grave

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

The Cruel Stars

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.

Cruelest Month

I’ve now gotten the feeling that I know how this series will go. There are the core group of people in the small town and then additional people who you didn’t know were in the town who show up to be part of the mystery/story. I liked this book about a seance gone bad but I found it weird to see new people who I hadn’t really known from before who did things like ran stores and etc. Good story and interesting characters with the usual amount of twists and turns.

A Curious Beginning

I was a big fan of Raybourn’s other mystery series and thought I’d like this one as well. I enjoyed the first book just fine but don’t think I’ll be picking up the second one (though I’d probably like it just fine if I read it). This book has a plucky heroine who is raised and orphan by her two aunts and turns out to have a very interesting backstory. Along the way she befriends the dark swarthy mystery man and... I just felt it was a bit too much like the Lady Jane Grey series. Which, again, I liked, but I felt the forumla sort of heavy in this and I think I’m back to sci fi for a bit.

Cyberterror

Found this book in a free pile I think? It is added to the list of “books I picked up that I read on planes that also themselves have plane crashes in them” Basically this book is about a terrorist who is effective at using computers to advance his terrorism. It was also written before a lot of us were really using the graphical web so much and so a lot of it winds up being about virtual reality. That said, as a book with a lot of VR in it, this was not bad. The bad guy is a little more sadistic than I usually enjoy reading about [some nasty torture scenes] but otherwise for a book about computers, I did not find it totally implausible or insuting of my intelligence.

Daemon

Do not read this book withotu knowing that it is the first half of a two-part novel. That said, i really enjoyed this. I was down with a headcold and read it all in one big weekend day/night. I like getting to read books about technology that have plausible aspects to them, even if parts of them are sci-fi-ish. This book about a dystopic future where a supergenius game manufacturer has set the wheels in motion for an odd world domination scheme. You have to read it to get it, but I enjoyed it, right up until the ending which was no ending at all because even after 650+ plages I was aonly halfway through. Looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

Dangerous Laughter

The only thing I did not like about this collection of short stories is that I’m a pretty serious an of Millhauser already so I had already read a few of these stories when they were originally published. Thus the book went by too fast and I was left at the end of it sooner than I would hav eliked. Millhauster is an amazing master of several types of stories -- the meticulous explanatory stories, the teen coming-of-age Bradbury-esque stories, the almost-normal-but-not-quite stories -- and it’s always a joy to see what he comes up with. Starting a story of his I’m always wondering just how he’s going to manage to turn the idea on its head just a little bit and I’m always surprised and delighted. Fun book, wish it had been longer.

A Dangerous Place

I would be stopping reading the Dobbs novels at this point except that I have been told they improve. This book is a radical departure from the previous books in a few notable ways 1. many of the major plot points happen before the book (the main character has many HUGE life events that happen before the novel takes place, this is weird 2. Maisie is sort of a jerk to the people who care about her. This wraps up by the end but it’s weird seeing the character be a jerk 3. there is a lot of expository “Let me tell you what I think happened...” sort of lazy writing that I’m not used to in the other books. So, not terrible but not great either. I’ll check out the next one and see if it improves.

Dar Road to Darjeeling

First book I’ve ever read on a kindle! I’ve liked this series since I started it and it’s been even more interesting since I’ve been watching Downton Abbey. A lot of cultural parallels and, in this book a pretty straightforward similarity where a woman dies in childbirth and her daughter is given the name of the recently departed mother. Maybe that sort of thing was a regular occurrence but for me to see it happening twice in a week because of being involved with these two series, I was surprised. I also like these books now that the title character Lady Jane is married to the guy she was all intrigued by in the first three books. I like some smoldering romance as much as the next person but not for books and books. There are a lot of interesting discussions and explorations of what it means to be in a partnership or in a marriage that come up that make better reading than smoky looks across stuffy drawing rooms. Liked this book, will read future ones.

Dare to Know

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.

The Dark Enquiry

Another in the Lady Julia series. Slightly less momentum since her and the mysterious man are now man and wife, solving crimes together, but still a good way to pass a weekend reading.

Dark Matter

So weirdly complex and good! I rarely read thrillers that don’t feel somehow like they’re specifically making up a scenario to be as stressful as possible. This odd science-y tale about a guy who sort of figures out how to move around in time--or does he?--scratched an itch for a good “What the heck is happening here?” story that wasn’t also coy or frustrating. Sort of like the way watching Orphan Black took you along with it, giving you enough information to remain involved but not so much that you got bored. Do not want to give a lot away here but I really enjoyed the two nights I read this.

The Dark Room

Got this book for a dime at the Des Moines public library booksale. Didn’t have high hopes for it but it turned out to be quite a gripping read. Sort of a “who done it when you can’t remember what happened” story, this tale of a woman whose fiancee leaves her to marry another woman. The finacee is then found brutally murdered [along with the other woman] and the spurned woman attempts suicide, or does she? I thought it was going to be a shlocky sex-crime filled book but okay for the airplane and it wound up being a pretty inteersting twisting and turning crime novel.

Dark Root

Another one of these books down as I plow through the Joe Gunther series. I enjoyed it but I found it somewhat complex. I appreciate that Mayor can take a topic like “Asian gangs in Vermont” and not turn it into a bunch of racial cheap shots (by any of his characters for the most part, not just the main ones) but it was still tough to keep track of a zillion characters with new and unfamiliar names. This book also had very little of the interpersonal Gail/Joe story that I tend to like. So, still enjoyed this and Mayor’s writing is top notch but this was probably my least favorite one so far and hardest to get into and stay into.

The Dark Tide

Got this book by accident while trying to get the other book about the molasses flood (don’t ask) and it was actually a really good thriller

The Dark Vineyard

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

Daughter of Fortune

[review pending]

The Daughters of Ys

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

The Day the Rabbi Resigned

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.

The Day Trader

This was a decent but unexceptional book about a guy who leaves his job to be a day trader when his wife who is about to divorce him gets killed. It’s sort of ploddingly written but the plot is compelling and complex and not so deep that it won’t be good for airplane travel.

The Dazzle of Day

A Quaker Spacer! This was an interesting book that rambled in sometimes good and sometimes less good ways. The characters are gentle and thoughtful, possibly too gentle. The book meanders. First we’re leaving earth, then we’re on a colony ship, and then we’re around a planet we might move to. And there’s a lot of thinking and you never stay with one character’s viewpoint (or even timeline) for very long. I liked some viewpoints more than others and was more interested in what was going on at some points than others. The writing is very good, but there’s almost no plot, even though some pretty monumentous things happen.

Dead Even

Working my way through a bunch of Meltzer books on my Kindle. This one was maybe my least favorite. Gory and, as an Amazon reviewer put it, somewhat contrived. Read it to the end, there are some likable characters but neither of the main characters are them.

Deadline

I’ve read all of Dunning’s bookseller books and enjoyed them a lot. I didn’t really know he’d written any other kinds. This book showed up on the FREE table at my local community college and even though the cover seemed sort of blah, I recognized the name and picked it up. Dunning claims he wrote this book in one sitting--well not exactly but that the entire plot came to him at once. This may explain why it’s such a simple read. It has its own momentum, a cast of characters that you can understand, and a slightly edgy mystery involving the FBI, the Amish and some 60s revolutionaries now decades older. Worth picking up to see what else Dunning can do.

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.

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.

A Death in Vienna

Happy to see the back of this trilogy which was mostly Holocaust-based, this one being the most Holocaust-y of all. Good books, great series but I was getting worn down by spending a lot of time reliving the terrible atrocities that happened around WWII.

Death on the Lizard

No idea why I couldn’t finish this but it just never got me going. Sort of historical fiction taking place in the Marconi era with a bunch of characters that I guess, from the footnotes, are from other novels. Between the flowery prose, the female character who had a muse that I was pretty sure was imaginary and the footnotes extolling me to read other books by the same author, I could not do anything with this book and evetually put it down.

The Defector

Silva seems to write one book that is two books long and then splits them into separate books. This is the second part of the last book, basically going back to get the bad guy who escaped in the previous book. And... I am starting to feel the strong pull of the formula that Silva uses. A big failed project that should have worked except for that one thing and then the assassin goes in and shoots the guy in the head. Weirdly unsatisfying but I keep reading them.

Defekt

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.

Deliver Me From Nowhere

I wound up having this book in my hands because my friend found it at an ocean cabin and we realized it had been checked out of the Providence Public Library and never returned. So I grabbed it, determined to repatriate it, and while I had it I read it. It was great. A small collection of very bleak stories about gender and salvation and poverty taking place in the rural south. Poignant and raw without being overly shocking or ... I don’t know, in your face? I have a hard time with stories that are filled with graphic sex and violence and while these stories are often about such things, they are rarely spelling it all our for you, preferring instead to imply what others might write down. I like that choice and I loved this book of stories, but I’m still returning it to the library.

Delta-v

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

Devil in a Blue Dress

This was the most-recommended series written by a person of color when I asked about this on my mailing list. I read and enjoyed the first book and will be reading more of them. This is a book written in the 90s about California in the 40s. There’s a lot of grit and casual (and not-so-casual) racism so some of it is tough to read but the plotlines are interesting and I was engrossed all the way through.

The Devil’s Bones

I was a little skeptical when the criminal justice teacher at the school I work at told me I’d like this. It was forensic criminology fiction which I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy. The author’s name, Jefferson Bass, is a pseudoynm that is made up of parts of the names of the two authors Bill Bass, the guy who created The Body Farm in Tennessee and Jon Jefferson a noted writer. They manage to create fiction that is at the same time based on real events and yet not seemingly sensationalized. This story combined a mysterious possible death-by-burning case and a ripped from the headlines mortuary that has been mass burying bodies instead of cremating them (sound familiar). The characters are likeable and the stories are compelling and a little less over the top than some of the other forensic type mysteries available today. I enjoyed this.

The Devil’s Cave

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

The Disposable Man

Another Mayor book! I think I am slowing down a little bit on these. I liked this one, but like the Asian gang one, there was too much non-Vermont content that was a little confusing. Also I am finally getting to the point where Gunther is always saying “Such a sleepy little town” and I am like “Dude you are getting shot at and people are getting killed around you every year nowadays!” This did have some of that interesting interagency cooporation stuff going on which I enjoyed, but a little confusing to stay on top of, though again a bunch of neat location stuff.

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.

The Doll

Still on the gross side, these books are nonetheless fun to read. This one is about the underground system of kidnapping young girls and getting them into the hands of truly awful people. Super yikky but the plot is interesting and the lead character (away from her partner this time) gets to do a lot f what she does best. An ending that confused me until I read the next book.

Don’t Look Twice

After getting the last Gross book y accident, I got this one on purpose. Another thriller, not quite as great as the last one and with a seemingly higher body count of close friends who wind up dead but still a fast-paced good read.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

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

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.

Dune

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.

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1

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.

The Earth is Near

This is one of those books I don’t know how it made it on to my Kindle but it was just there on my laptop. It’s a “mission to mars” type of book, as written by the ship’s psychologist. It’s really interesting, though not exactly lively. It wasn’t until I had suggested it to another friend that I realized the book was nearly as old as I am! It’s a great mix of big ideas about travel and space and the day to day grind of being on a hostile and even somewhat foreign planet with the unknowns and sudden shifts of fate. Very much enjoyed it.

Eat the Document

Loved and did not love this book which has two timelines, one from the past and one from almost-now. This is a story that is fiction but it’s clearly getting a LOT of the information in it from real-life things. A group of radicals in the 60s bombs a house where someone is killed and they go underground. That is one story. The two people who went underground (you figure out later this is who they are) are now living near each other, unbeknownst to them, in Seattle in the 90s. Which was weird for me because *I* was in Seattle in the 90s and so much of this both rang true and also didn’t feel like fiction. I made the mistake of reading others' reviews before writing my own and I have to agree that there was a lot to like about this book but keeping the big reveal (what they actually DID back in the 60s) until the last few pages felt a little constructed. I wanted to know more, sooner, I felt a lot of the people had a lack of agency and vagued their way into things. I think this was good and I’d recommend it to people but I might also warn them about some of it.

Echopraxia

I got a little bogged down in this book. I was really excited that there was another book by Peter Watts that I hadn’t read after finishing two of his others from the Rifter series and really enjoying them. However this book was a lot more like Blindsight which I found a little dense and very thinky in a good way but not quite what I like for nighttime pleasure reading. That is, Watts discusses a lot of really interesting things about consciousness and religion but a lot of it wound up being a little deep for me, when I was expecting something that was a little more like first contact stories. Great book, but I went into it expecting something different.

The Eight

I picked this up in an airport because I was desparate not to have nothing to read on the plane and this wasn’t a self-help book. The blurb said it was a “feminist version of the DaVinci code” or something and I was not totally psyched about that but it turned out to be a fun airplane read. It sort of IS like the Dan Brown books -- it’s a historical romp with a big-scale mystery driving the action - but most of the main characters are women. And they’re not women in some like super-feminist matriarchy, they’re just female characters. There are a lot of male characters too, they’re just not primary. And it’s about chess but instead of it being a totally cerebral novel with a bunch of chess in-jokes, the chess in this book is mostly understandable to someone who has at least played the game once or twice. As a random airport book this was a pleasant surprise. I’ll probably pick up Neville’s next book when I see it.

Eight Perfect Murders

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

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.

Elder Race

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.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor is weird and you don’t know why. She has a job and an apartment and a life but just barely. She has a sense of humor. This book follows her as she gets a little less weird and learns things about the world. I really enjoyed the narrator’s voice in this one, appreciated some of her routine-based rigidity and her matter of fact way of talking about a lot of it. Didn’t much care for the big reveal at the end and was super curious about the author’s personal backstory. Very good for a book I’d just randomly picked off of the library shelves.

Electric Michaelangelo

this was an amazingly poignant book about a boy who grows up under somewhat impoverished circumstances in that UK carries this with him his whole life, through a trip to the US and back again to the UK. It’s a very provocative and interesting set of stories within stories. Beautiful and sad.

Elegy for Eddie

Another good book in the series. This one deals with a lot of interesting issues of poverty as well as the encroaching awfulness about what is up with the Nazis. The main character seems to be learning some things about herself and even though some of her relationship stuff seems like it may be getting a little wrapped up in a too-pat fashion, I enjoyed this book more than the one which preceded it.

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Cars

Hey my landlady illustrated this book, and my other (deceased) landlady wrote it. NY Review reissued a few of their books including this and the Pushcart War and sent me a copy, I am not sure why. It was a five minute read, but a very enjoyable short tale of resistance and compromise. Lovely reprint.

The Eleventh Commandment

Another random “This looks like it will be a fun read on the bus” sort of popular novel and indeed it was. A political thriller with a lot of crossing and double-crossing was occasionally hard to follow but a gripping read about a deep cover CIA operative and his last (or second to last) mission.

Elizabeth Costello

[review pending]

The Emperor of Ocean Park

Very much enjoyed this first novel by Stephen Carter which has been on my “to read” list for years. A great thriller about upper class Black legal society and the disruption sown when the father of the protagonist dies in what may be a mysterious way. The narrator, while reliable, is standoffish in a way that makes him interesting to read the perspective of and I liked the various settings (DC, Martha’s Vineyard, suburban whereveritwas) that populate the novel.

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.

The End of Ordinary

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.

Engine Summer

Crowley has written one of my favorite books and I was hoping there would be some of the same flavor to this earlier book of his. Instead, I found it confusing as if I were failing to grasp subtle metaphor after subtle metaphor and the whole book never really cohered for me.

The English Assassin

I like the Allon books when they talk more about art and less about Nazis. This one has some of both but I basically enjoyed it though it slipped a bit too much into some sadistic violence than I am usually ok with.

The English Girl

These get harder and harder to differentiate. I first got introduced to Silva via The English Spy (coming up, same orange cover) and so I got confused. This is a more classic Silva novel. An interesting disappearance, some intrigue. a few campaigns to sort things out, but not a lot of political blabla and not a lot of sketchy torture stuff. I enjoyed seeing where this one went.

The English Spy

Pulled this off right off of the “new” shelf at my library. It was decent, totally okay, but it’s one of those stories where there’s this incredibly hard-to-kill person and they move heaven and earth to try to kill them and it’s all crazy and there’s a huge build up and then something goes wrong and the hard-to-kill guy stays alive and the denoument is that he winds up being killed sometime later. I found the characters a little hard to follow and there was a lot of spycraft stuff that was not to my tastes. It’s easy to see why this guy is a popular writer and it’s possible I just need to start earlier in the series than the total end but it just didn’t grab me though it was fine reading for a train trip.

The English Spy

This one is a re-read because it’s the first one of the series I read and now I’ve caught up to it when starting from the beginning. I was pretty sure I didn’t remember most of it and I was right. Still one of the better ones of the series, I think.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

This was an Ellen Raskin type puzzle book which is clearly written by someone in love with libraries. Super fun with a bunch of interesting characters and some fun puzzles to figure out.

An Eternal Lei

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.

Everything is Illuminated

I finished this book and went to read more about Trachimbrod (actually Trochimbrod) the location in the story where an entire town of Jews is destroyed and the town effectively vanishes from the earth. While the book is non-fiction and has a lot of fun and less-fun literary affectations, it’s based on a real place. When I went to read more, I learned that the movie made of the book was 1) based on a screenplay written by a guy I went to college with, and 2) featured a soundtrack by Gogol Bordello who was also featured in a movie I just finished watching: Wristcutters.

None of this has much to do with the book which I fell into and got stuck in. The recurring theme of memory and how for Jews their memories are like a sixth sense, felt as well as simply experienced. This particular story is two main stories. The protagonist, known alternately as “The Hero” and Jonathan Safran Foer, goes back to figure out what happened to the town where his grandfather lived. There is also the parallel story of the history of this same town, told in a rather fantastical way. I usually dislike books with two concurrent stories because I tent to like one more and flip ahead in the slower story to get back to the interesting one, but in this book both stories are equally captivating.

Evidence

I have a really difficult time with genre fiction, trying to figure out if I’ve read a particular book by an author before. Picked up this book at a library book sale and it looks like I’ve never read another book by Kellerman and I’m wondering if that’s even possible. It would explain why I somehow didn’t recognize any of the characters. This book was fine. It was an interesting San Fran mystery. The mystery part was good enough, but it concerned eco-terrorism which is a subject that I know a little bit about. And that part was less interesting to me. I don’t know if Kellerman knows a lot about the subject and was trying to simplify it for his readers, or if he’s just not that well informed but it seemed like he had a few generalized opinions about eco-terrorism, dug up a few facts and then created a few two-dimensional characters that had those facts as major personality traits. It was fine, but seemed overly simple to me, and a little too pat as a way to wrap up the whole story line. In any case, an okay book.

Evil Genius

This was a great long book for a bus ride and a vacation. This sotory is a YA novel about a weird young man who, from an early age, is nurtured into becoming an evil genius. He goes to evil genius school for a while, he meets a lot of wacky characters. He makes friends (sort of) and tries to muddle things out with a slowly expanding intellect. It’s a fun read with interesting characters and and plot that will mostly keep you entertained.

Exhalation: Stories

SO GOOD. I really enjoy Chiang’s forays into “What if things were almost the same but a little different, how would we be humans?” Surprisingly (to me) the title story was one of my least favorite of the bunch. The one that stuck with me the most was about people who create virtual pets with AI that live in a virtual world, and how they deal with that worl’d changing and shifting, and their pets' increasing consciousness. Favorite part was that there’s a little part in the end where Chiang explains what inspired him to write that story, or something else about it. Some of these ideas are, for lack of a better word, weird, and so it was really interesting to hear how he got from these odd ideas to these full-fledged stories.

Exit Strategy

I am sad to be at the end of these they were all fun and this one tied up the current set of novellas with a satisfying “for now” ending.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

[review pending]

Eyes Wide Open

I liked Andrew Gross' Ty Hauck series but this book was just terrible. His impetus was, loosely, a family member’s suicide that seemed inexplicable. However, he mushed that story (and a bunch of people who are all unreliable narrators due to various mental illnesses which makes for really difficult reading) with what feels like a rip off of the Charles Manson murder story which makes it all seem really schlocky. Don’t read this book.

The Fabulous Clipjoint

A really fun noir-y old time mystery but Brown who is often better known in sci-fi circles. Apparently it’s the first of several and I’m looking forward to getting to read the follow-ups in the “Ed and Am” series of mysteries. A great gritty story.

Fair Coin

One of those Monkey Paw, “careful what you wish for,” stories, in a YA vein. This was on the scifi shelf at the local college and it reads like a YA book but still interesting enough to be worth reading. There’s a coin, and maybe it grants wishes, but maybe it doesn’t. I read it feeling like it was a standalone and now, hey, there’s another one. OK I will probably read that one too. The author seems interesting and that was part of what drove me to read this.

Faithful Place

I was lucky in that when I finished French’s second book, this one was immediately available at the library. So, I read them back to back which was good for remembering small details about the characters since there is a little overlap between books, but not much. This was a terribly sad novel outlining the backstory of Cassie’s boss the guy who runs undercover and how he came from a ratty working class neighborhood and about the teen mystery/disappearance that haunted him and his family. Quite good, very chilling but well done and not at all tawdry. Can’t wait to read her next one.

The Fall of the Year

Its hard sometimes for me to read Mosher because he’s got this sentimentality to his writing that pushes all of my buttons exactly right. So if I’m not in a place in my life where it’s okay to be transported somewhere else, I sometimes stay away from his stuff. But this was the right time for the right book and I enjoyed this collection of loosely connected vignettes from the people who inhabit Mosher’s just-barely-fictional Kingdom County.

Fall, or Dodge in Hell

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

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 Fallen Angel

This one was a lot more procedural wonkish than many of the other books. It’s not One Big Job, it’s a lot of little jobs all sort of intermigled with some backstory tossed in. Not as dramatic but overall still enjoyable.

Famous Men Who Never Lived

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

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.

Fart Powder: Bubble in the Bathtub

This book is the second in Nesbo’s Fart Powder series, a romp through time with two young kids Lisa and Nilly and their friend Doctor Proctor the scientist and some good and bad guys along the way. I started with this book but it’s still fully understandable without reading the first book. Along the way the kids encounter historical figures you might have heard of like Napoleon and Joan of Arc. While there’s a time travel aspect to the book [there is special soap you can mix up in the bathtub that allows you to move through time] it’s much less science fiction and much more of a wacky caper book and Amazon categorizes it under “Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Norse” for whatever reason. The book is translated from the original Norwegian.

There are funny fart jokes and other goofiness along the lines of Captain Underpants. This is a thick book, over 400 pages, but the text is good sized, the chapters are short and there are lots of illustrations along the way. Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship and creative problem solving. The two young characters each have distinct and enjoyable personalities and I found myself eagerly flipping pages to see what would happen next.

A Fatal Grace

Second in this series of cozy mysteries that take place in the tiny town of Three Pines. We get to know more about the overarching mystery of what is going on with Inspector Gamache as well as look into a mysterious death during a curling competition.

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 Fated Sky

I enjoyed this book. It’s a little more complex than the first one in that there’s a little more interpersonal stuff going on and a little less “How do we deal with this catastrophe” There is also a little more random number talking which I am always surprised at (like I get that she is a calculator but lists of numbers when they’re doing “space things” makes for sort of odd reading"). A lot less Nathaniel in this book which is too bad but generally speaking this is about going to Mars, it’s very space-y, it’s a great sequel to the previous book and I look forward to more.

The Fifth Assassin

I somehow read this book in 2014 and forgot to write a review for it. I liked it and I enjoy this series about the Culper Ring and all the weird intrigue happening in DC> This one was a little less great than the others because of the inclusion of the mentally ill assassin guy. Any time there is a first person account of someone who is mentally disabled (and not really that realistic but used as a “they could do anything!” wildcard) I lose interest. That said I’m currently reading the newest installment so it didn’t make me give up on the thing, just made me more skeptical.

Finna

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

The Fire

This was a long book that I read on and after a long plane ride. It’s not as good as Neville’s original book The Eight but pretty good nonetheless. This continues the story started in The Eight only we’re one generation further along and some of the players remain the same and some have shifted around. There are more puzzles, more characters and even more (it seemed to me) stories told from other perspectives in that old “and then he started his tale...” sort of way.

Not a big deal but I felt that the thread of this story was a bit more dismorphous, the tale was a little less understandable and the resolution maybe a little too pat. I liked meeting up with the characters again and getting to traipse all over the world with them. And, as always, I enjoy that many of the main characters are female so you could say this is a book that passes the Bechdel Test. That said it’s not all “I smite him with my heavenly yoni...” either, it’s just a neat thriller type mystery somethingorother that happens to have a lot of women in it.

Firebirds Rising

It’s really unusual to get a book that is a collection of short stories by various authors and have the collection be uniformly good. There was, towards the end, one story that I didn’t like as well as the others, but this collection is basically uniformly excellent. I’m sure this is because Sharyn November, who is a friend of mine, is a genius. However, it may also be because she’s especially clever at choosing fiction and cultivating authors to write what they might not otherwise have written. This book has the added bonus of little blurbs by the authors at the end of every story which include web addresses for easy lookup if you’d like to find more by them. It also has the authors describing why they wrote the stories, what inspired them and what they were thinking about. Some of the pieces in this collection are clearly parts of larger works which was good news if I really liked the story/characters but bad news if I felt that I was coming in to a story partway through. People who read YA or just enjoy a good compliation of fantasy/scifi are sure to enjoy this thick book of good stories.

Firebirds Soaring

Another terrific Firebird collection by my friend Sharyn November. This collection of young adult fantasy short stories serves as both a great collection of pieces but also an introduction to many great authors working in YA today. The stories range from super-short almost-poems to long stories that operate on their own as well as chapters or sequels to existing works. Each story has a lead illustration that is a neat addition to this already-rich compilation of stories. Sharyn is a stickler for details and this book is well-chosen and well-edited. Another must-read for fans of YA fantasy.

Firefly - Big Damn Hero

I missed these characters. It’s funny reading a book about characfers you only know about from TV/Movies. I enjoyed the Firefly series quite a lot and was happy to learn there was a book out. The book is mostly good. Interesting story, some neat character backstory but also a little bit of dumb fight sequencing (like overly blabity bla) and some boring parts in case you didn’t know who the people were. I will read some more of these (presuming there are any) and I hope they improve a little.

The First Billion

This was a fun page-turner that I brought on vacation and never finished. It was good but not terrifically gripping. The loose outline is that there’s a Russian company that is doing an IPO and our hero runs a small investment firm that is bringing the IPO to market. Then there are some concerns about the viability of the company, and then all hell breaks loose. There are parts of this book that are serious snoresville and of course the main character is a strong-jawed former military man with a haunted past who just can’t lose. I picked it up on the free table at a ocal library and thought it was much better than I thought it would be, but still pretty stuck in formulaic genre thriller fiction molds.

The First Counsel

Got this at a library booksale, read it in one sitting on a long plane ride. Good book.

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.

The First Patient

This book came to me in the mail from the publisher for some reason and it was the perfect book for a long series of plane rides. The basic premise is that the President of the US’s doctor has left for “some reason” and the president taps his old buddy with a checkered past to be his personal physician as he’s gearing up for running for re-election. Pretty standard stuff, but it gets into nanotechnology and all sorts of weird blackmailish stuff, better than the average political tome and a lively read.

The First Rule of Punk

Jenna’s booklist for last year had this on it. I like YA books, reading about diverse characters, and PUNK. This was a great book about a kid who has to move from the town she loves to a big city where she’s not sure she’s going to make friends and she doesn’t want to change her style. She gets along with her parents but has predictable disagreements with them. She writes zines, only sort of tries to fit in at her new school, and drinks a lot of coffee. I think all zinesters would really enjoy this book with its likeable characters and not totally predictable plot twists.

Flying to America

This is a good book for completists. I was sad reading this book because I knew when I finished it there would be no more Barthelme that I hadn’t read and all I could ever do was re-read him [or drag up old essays from architectural magazines, or go to Texas and dig through his papers] but I think this book is actually a good goodbye. Some of it’s marvelous and all of it’s fascinating, but there are definitely some pieces here that drag.

I mean, in many of his books there is a piece or two that maybe aren’t as spunky as the others, but you can sort of see how they all fit together with the group as a whole. Even though this collection was ably curated by Kim Herzinger, there wasn’t that same sense of “oh this story isn’t so good on its own but combined with the one before it and the one after it, it begins to make some sense in a weird Barthelme sort of way” I just didn’t like some of these stories and that’s pretty much okay. Generally speaking this was a joy to read. The book is attractive, it’s hefty and there are notes in the back which is my favorite part, really, of any short story collection. Where did this story come from? Where has it been?

Forever Free

I really enjoyed this. I like Haldeman’s other book Forever Peace and it took me far too long to get to this one. It’s a little strange. All the characters from the earlier books are long gone and we’re in some far flung future where most people have settled on other planets and a few have stayed nearly as homesteaders on this planet. Then they get restless and decide to explore. I read it a ways ago and so a lot of it isn’t quite clear to me. I do remember the presence of other humanoid people on the planet who were not human, and the fun involved in a future world where people are of varying ages with ranges in the hundreds of years thanks to being in suspended animation during long space travels.

There is a lot of interesting back and forth about whether to stay on the current planet or leave, and Haldeman’s strength lies in the depth of his characters and the complicated nature of their relationships. The last few chapters of the book have a very odd twist to them that didn’t sit totally right with me, but my overall reflection on this book was that I was pleased to have read it.

Foundryside

A haves and have-nots tale of a world with “industrialized magic” and the dangers of consolidated power. Told from the point of view of a former slave turned gritty thief. Lots of funky workshops (did not know this was a thing I craved, and yet...) and muck. I think a lot of books really aim to create a cool shady underworld where poor people hang out and there are no rules, but I feel like this messy favela-type place really felt real.

Free Food for Millionaires

It’s been a while since I read some non-genre fiction that really captured my attention. I read this on my Kindle and I admit if I had known how long it was I might not have picked it up. This is a great rambly story about one woman who leaves home after getting punched int he face by her father (almost put the book down then, glad I did not) and what she does and what happens to her. She’s a complicated character both simultaneously in charge of her own destiny but also making a lot of choices that made me go o_O. There’s a lot of backstory about Korean culture and class which I found incredibly fascinating. The character is really “thinky” and so I got to learn a lot about a culture I don’t know much about--and a lot of different aspects of it. Glad I read it, think more people should.

Freedom

Was a little worried when I picked this up that it was going to be the totally lackluster sequel to the book I really enjoyed, Daemon. There is a part in the middle where it just seems like it’s going to be motorcycle war forever but that part fades away and this book has a lot of the same thought-provoking social-engagement stuff as the first one. I liked it and it’s nice to read techie fiction written by people who really understand tech.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution

Watts swears this is a novella but it’s got enough going on in it to really seem like a full on book. In fact I sort of wanted more of this weird story about a long term (think millennia) space voyage to install wormholes where the human crew is regularly put into and out of suspended animation by the not-that-bright AI. And maybe something is wrong? And given that, how do you plan to shake things up? I liked Watts' attention to this especially because a lot of the time I find his stories a little on the dark side for me but I love his plots and so I pick up his books hoping I’ll find a thing that I can dig into. This was that thing.

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.

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

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.

Friends with Boys

I first became aware of Faith Erin Hicks when I read the graphic novel that she illustrated, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. This story about a homeschooled girl’s transition to a regular high school while dealing with the absence of her mom is written and illustrated by Hicks. It’s a great story that looks at a lot of various gender roles and expectations without bogging you down in a politicky story. The high school felt real, the story felt realistic and not preachy. Very well done.

Fruits of the Poisonous Tree

Plowing through some Archer Mayor to make the days go by. Deciding to read them in order and this was the one I had skipped earlier because it was rapey and I usually don’t trust authors to write sympathetically about rape but rather to use it for shock value and that always bothers me. This book was better. It’s got all of Mayor’s trademarks--lots of stuff takes place in places you know about in Vermont, Joe Gunther and Gail figure prominently and move the general series arc along even as the crime is getting solved, there is a big cast of characters and some political backdrop. I enjoyed it and it wrapped up a little more cleanly than the last one.

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.

Fun & Games

Book one in the Charlie Hardie series otherwise known as “How much pain can one guy take?” I liked it. Lots of twists and turns and a premise that is pretty novel and leaves you wondering wtf is going on a lot of the time. You don’t love Hardie but you really do want to know what happens to him.

The Future of Another Timeline

A fun time travel romp with the central conceit being “Hey if you could go back in time to right some historical wrongs, but on a more subtle level than killing Hitler, what would you do?” This is a feminist tale through and through and while there is time travel with restrictions, explaining how it works is not what this book is about. Soft science and heavy history (you’ll notice favorite feminist icons along the way) with a little bit of graphic assault, in case that’s something you’re concerned about.

Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias

I was super hot and cold on this collection. Many of the stories are interesting turns on what w world of the future would be like if we started paying attention to our environment (in both utopic and dystopic ways) and some were more typical sci fi stories in a more ecosystem-intentional setting. The few times I started reading a story and was asking myself “What the hell is going on?” were the two times when Robinson had included chapters from longer novels. These pieces read as not-short-stories and were less engaging to read. I found a few of these stories really lovely--one about a near future where fortune-telling is part of the social and political fabric of the world and one about an injured bird god king--but a few other ones I found too uneven or unclear even as I read the back matter and saw, after the fact, what the authors were trying to get at. Ultimately not for me but I’m going to try to track down some similar books on related themes.

Fuzz

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.

Galactic Pot-Healer

It’s cool that PK Dick’s books are being reissued with cool cover art and nice formatting. Some of his books, however, are stronger than others. This one, for example, is a great story of paranoia and “what the hell is going on?” but it doesn’t cohere as nicely as, say, Ubik or his other more popular books. There is some really excellent humor in it, which I’m not used to getting from his books, but overall there are a lot of weird tedious parts as the characters argue over what the main monster-type character is up to. Good story, good to read anything that Dick has written, really, but not superfantastic.

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.

Galore

SO GOOD. This one was another by Crummey and more of an epic tale than Sweetland which was a bit of a “man vs. Nature” book. Loved the long rambling story about multiple generations of people in a down and out Newfoundland and some slightly fantastical things which happen within their community.

The Game

A friend suggested this series and for whatever reason the book I wound up with was one that was way in the middle. Historical fiction type of mystery with the premise that Sherlock Holmes has a very capable wife who he solves mysteries with. This book, though it started off with a sort of titillating “Oh my god the main character is going to die” sort of teaser which I could have done without, was a really interesting sort of mystery sort of history book that takes place in India under British rule. Lots of neat little factoids and settings and I liked Holmes' wife Mary Russell a great deal. Don’t know if I’m going to have trouble reading them out of order, but I’ll probably pick up another one.

Gate to Women’s Country

I usually like these ecofeminist books. This one was on the free table at the local college and I picked it up and slogged through parts of it and just couldn’t get excited about picking it up again. Too much weird theatrical overlap (you know the kind where the characters are preparing for a play and there are PAGES of play text in there?) and I couldn’t get over it.

Gatekeeper

Liked this one because it game me a chance to get to know more about Sammie Martens. Unfortunately what we learn about her is that she’s impetuous and frequently puts herself in dangerous situations that she needs Kunkle or Gunther to get her out of. There was also a “wow you’ve clearly never done drugs before” description of an ecstacy trip and a sort of “And that’s how it all went down” summary at the end. I liked but did not love this one though I was happy to learn more about Martens even if it wasn’t all good.

A Gathering of Old Men

I found this book in a waiting room somewhere and it was on my shelves unread until I finally needed a small paperback to take on my trip. This book was great. It’s set in a post-sharecropper era in the South in a plantation town that is pretty much only occupied by elderly people who used to work on the plantation. There is some sort of altercation and one of the plantation owners is killed and there is a big to do about who will take the blame and for what reason. The old black men in town all assemble with their rifles, ready to say “I did it” in the face of what they are assuming is going to be violent opposition from the usual suspects. And that’s sort of what happens except the usual suspects are far from usual and there is a lot of change in the air and what happens isn’t quite what you expect.

Gaines' characters are interesting and full of complications and depth and the story is told in successive chapters by many different people, giving you somewhat differing perspectives, but not in the usual “who is telling the truth?” sort of way. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy the multiple perspectives but it turned out to make this story even more compelling than it would be otherwise, affording many differing views of the same day full of events.

Genius Squad

A fun YA novel a lot like the one that came bafore it. A lot of scene setting, some intrepid “what’s going on stuff” a big scary chance and a nice resolution. I’m not sure if I will like the third installment of this book since the first two follow a fairly familiar narrative structure, but I enjoy the character of Cadel Piggot and I like listening to pretty much any author who can convincingly write about technology whether it’s being used by a band of savvy teens or something else. Jinks maintains my interest and I feel that I should check out more of what she’s written.

The Geographer’s Library

I read this book after a friend whose opinion I greatly respect had already told me it was a disappointment to her. I liked it a little better than that, but not a lot better. It seems there is some sort of genre of books about ordinary guy caught up in some sort of deep mystery concerning Ancient Objects, Hot Women and Research. The researcha gnel always appeals to me, and some of the ancient stuff, and I’m sort of “eh” on the hot women angle, but the stories are usually interesting enough. This one was pretty good.

It might have been better if I hadn’t been reading a proof copy and had had illustrations of all the alchemical -- I hope I’m not giving away too much here -- objects rather than just a blank box with “TK Illustration” written in them. At the end of it all though, you don’t quite have the sufficiently zing-y wrap up to make it all come together and think “man I read a good book.” I liked the charachters, liked the story, enjoyd it while I was reading it, but I’ve read better versions of the same general plot and don’t think I’ll think about this book much after it’s faded from recent memory.

The Ghost Clause

Picked it up because of a bookshelf on the cover (apparently not on the cover of another version which has a more Vermont-y farmhouse on it). I liked this simple story of an old house and the two couples that lived in it and the ins and outs of their relationships. I hadn’t read Norman before but I think I’ll try more of his books. This book definitely seems autobiographical in some ways but I don’t know enough about him to be sure of what is and what isn’t from his life. There are some real life people who inhabit this fictional tale, some of whom I know personally. It was neat to see them.

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

Wanted to like this but it was already up to three different perspectives and a little too strategic for me and I’m trying to get better at cutting my losses.

The Giant’s House: A Romance

I picked this book off the library booksale shelves and did not know it was about a librarian. It’s not only that, it’s by a former (sort of) librarian turned novelist. She writes quite poetically about this smalltown New England librarian living a life of solitude who becomes somehow connected to the local boy who has a growth problem, eventually reaching over eight feet tall. The boy is clearly based on Robert Wadlow, the tallest man who ever lived, though there are similarities, this is not biographical but rather historical fiction. I kept pulling out phrases in this book that i found particularly evocative as a librarian and the added quirky romance if you could call it that propels the book forward fairly well. A quick, easy and fascinating read.

The Gift of Stones

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.

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

What a weird funny book. I decided to spend a day looking at graphic novels because I’ve been bogged down in one book the rest of the time. I went to the library in the summer town I’m in and they had almost none! So I got a series about John Lewis and then picked this one up. It’s fun! And weird. At first it starts out seeming to rhyme and I was concerned but then it turns into this super strange story about a guy with a beard that grows and won’t stop, and it becomes a metaphor for all that is safe and all that is unknown and scary. Liked it. Great illustrations.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Did not know this book was out and saw it at the library. It’s a companion to the Lisbeth Salander series by a new author since Steig Larsson died in 2004. I liked this as a follow-up even though I know it’s somewhat controversial (who owns the rights to the stories, who SHOULD own the rights to the stories) but there were a few long slogging exposition paragraphs that could have done with a bit more “show me don’t tell me” Happy to get back into this story, however.

A Girl Like Sugar

This sexy YA book was included in the envelope of a pal who sent me some perfume samples and I wasn’t sure if she included it just to take up space or if she was recommending it. I enjoyed it. It’s the story of a girl called Sugar whose rock star boyfriend had recently died in a suicide/drug overdose sort of way. She has to deal with living independently, meeting new people and the fact that his ghost keeps visiting her and wanting to have sex with her. She has a hippie Mom and a father she knows nothing about, few friends and an okay amount of money. This is a fairly classic and straightforward “girl with new life situation learns to find new voice” but I enjoyed it, liked the main character and found myself wondering what woould happen to her next.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Slightly more conflicted about this book than the previous one. Enjoyed it, but there were some weird dead ends and turns that didn’t make much sense. Our heroine gets breast implants? There is a missing sister who stays missing for the entire book? It’s all about freedom of the press? Enjoyed this but it was much more a Blomkvist story than a Sander story which is totally AOK but made it less fascinating to me.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

I had a five hour plane ride and I had this book to read. They were a great match.

The Girl Who WOuld be King

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.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

At some point I read this book over the past few months but can’t now remember when that was. I know this because I’ve now read the second book in the series and went to see what I’d written about the first book. I saw the movie before I read the book and so what people had warned me about “Sort of sadistic. Maybe too rapey” I was already ready for. In fact, the second book is a lot less sadistic than the first one though there is still a lot of violence. I like the sort of crazed female lead character, probably more so since I can picture her in my mind as looking like the woman who plays her in the movie. I enjoyed this book.

Girl, Woman, Other

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

Glass Houses

Another great Gamache. Penny has been through some shit last year--her husband who had early stage Alzheimers passed away shortly after her last novel was published--and I think you can get traces of that, of the depth of feeling, in this book. Very poingant, and taking place mostly in the village of Three Pines but also sometimes in a courtroom, this is yet another “Is it all going to work out or all get sorted at the end” novel which does not disappoint.

Glastenbury, the history of a Vermont ghost town

Glastenbury is one of the five unincorporated towns in Vermont but it used to have people living in it, and a railcar that went there. Resch does some excellent digging to come up with photos and stories and histories of the people who live(d) in the town and what made it work for them and what happened to the structures and stories that made the place up. A great little history.

Gnomon: A novel

So the thing about getting random EPUB files to read sometimes is that you have no idea, on a Kindle, truly how LONG they are. I might have either quit this book sooner if I had known just what sort of a commitment I was getting into. This was a book like Gravity’s Rainbow or maybe Johnathan Strange and Mister Norrel where I kept at it because I felt there was something I was just missing and if I kept reading I’d figure it out. In ALL cases, that did not come true. I know why many people loved this book but I justn felt put out and alienated by it even as I could understand why it is special.

God’s Kingdom

I really love Mosher’s unvarnished nostalgia style. His characters inhabit a world that is an only slightly old-timey version of the Vermont I currently live in and watching them work out their differences, deal with grief and loss and love and day to day life is always a calming part to my day. I enjoyed this book very much.

Gods of Howl Mountain

Such a poignant look at post war Appalachia and the people who live there and have to make do the best way they can. Some have jobs in the mills. Some run moonshine. Some make moonshine, some are cops. Some are robbers. It’s a great look at one family and the way they deal with what the future has to bear as well as some demons from the past. I loved this book and am going to go read all of Brown’s other ones.

Going to Meet the Man

[review pending]

Golden State

Easier to read than Underground Airlines which was a worthwhile book but this one seems a bit more ... for me? Near future dystopian novel where we’ve forgotten our past. Or... these people did and now the penalties for lying are stiffer than the penalties for doing actually bad things. And everyone is spied on at all times and record keeping is NUTS. As you may imagine, interesting roles for librarians here. I loved this story but the framing of it (confused a little as to who the narrator was in the very beginning who set the whole thing in a sort of “this is our origin story” sort of setting) but nonetheless, great and fun in a Dickian way without being by Dick.

The Gone World

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

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.

The Gore

This was a terrific Vermont-y suspense book that seems like it’s going to be a whole bunch of different stories that you’ve read before but in the end it’s interesting, exciting and makes you think. I enjoyed reading this front to back.

Granite and Cedar: The People And The Land Of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

This is a book of photographs that has a story by Howard Frank Mosher running through it. I say that even as I feel it’s sort of a Howard Frank Mosher story that is illustrated with photos. But the pictures came first, hardscrabble Vermonters living way up north, looking into the camera from decades ago. And a story about a few things that happened when the highway went through, Fiction, but not that different from reality. I’ve missed Mosher since he died and it was great to find a little slice of him here.

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.

Gravity

I used to enjoy reading forensic type mysteries, but lately they’ve all gotten too gorey and there’s always the protracted part of them where the doctor winds up being part of the killer’s nasty crime spree and I just dislike those parts. One of my librarians suggested that I might enjoy medical thrillers and gave me this book to read. It’s a story of a strange organism that is killing astronauts. There is a lot of techie space trivia, a lot of astronaut background, a lot of sleuthing, and no bad guy hiding in the closet of an abandoned house while the doctor walks around in the dead of night. Quite good. Medical mysteries mean you’re usuallly racing against an unknown bacteria or virus, not another person and this gives authors like Gerritsen a much wider range of potential “bad guys” that can have alll sorts of differing characteristics. This puts an end to trying to figure out what terrible, horrible thing could have happened to the bad guy to make him into this wretched killing machine. In short, I enjoyed this new genre of mystery/thriller.

Grease Monkey

This was one of the more fun graphic novels that I’ve read recently. The introduction by Kurt Busiek really sets the stage. This book was a labor of love, dribbled out as a series of self-published [well, photocopied] comics over years and years. Finally Eldred got a deal with Tor books and the set of comics became an excellent book. When I start explaining the plot and characters it really doesn’t do the story justice “Okay so it’s in the future and 60% of the Earth’s population has been killed and so these aliens come and give sentience to gorillas after the dolphins turn them down...” It’s mostly a human story about living on a spaceport and trying to make time for having a job and a personal life and oh there’s a team of female spaceship pilots and the guy’s boss is a gorilla. The illustration, storylines and characters are top notch. I am only sorry I can not read this graphic novel for the first time again, a lament the introduction’s writer also reported.

The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All

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.

A Great Reckoning

Another one in the Gamache series and one I liked a lot. A lot of depth to it and the usual dead ends but a lot of good Three Pines community stuff and not a lot of people you like being terrible to one another. Thumbs up.

The Green Glass Sea

I read this as a prepub bound galley. The book is based on a short story written by Klages a few years ago. It’s a YA novel about a nerdy young girl and the weird situation she finds herself in when her Dad goes towork at Los Alamos. It’s a fascinating read, just to learn about what day to day life was like there, all the secrecy involved and how hard it must have been just to be a kid there, with all the other tough parts of being a kid. Klages has a real ear for kid dialogue and all the characters have some sort of redeeming quality except for possibly the two-dimensional girl bully we meet early on.

There’s a hint of historical fiction in this book which I found to be a bit of a distraction. Once Oppenheimer was mentioned, I started to wonder which other characters were based on real ones (the author mentions this and answers this question in the back) and it distracted from the idea of the characters to me and felt a bit name-droppy. However, that was a really minor blip in an otherwise strong first novel.

Green Mars

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.

Greg’s Microscope

This is a great kids' book that I had when I was a kid and didn’t even know that it was older than me. I picked it up again at the library to show to some young friends who were visiting. It’s great. It is a story of a kid who gets a microscope and has a good time learning things and experimenting with his family (mom and dad) and there are a lot of neat drawings of what things look like under a microscope glass.

Groovitude: A Get Fuzzy Treasury

What’s almost more amusing than this book, which I enjoyed quite a lot, is seeing the people who are totally ticked off and annoyed by it on Amazon. I can understand how the content -- a mean cat and a dopey well-meaning dog who live with their ad exec owner and have amusing domestic interactions -- aren’t for everyone, but I’d think that would be the sort of thing you’d know before you bought it, maybe? The only gripe people seemed to have that was legit was that this compendium is basically the first two books combined with some Sunday comics. So, if you already have one of the other books, you may not want this one. I’m not sure why I love this collection so much but having had dogs and cats a lot of my life it just makes me smile a lot of the time.

Gunpowder Moon

Super creepy fiction about what if the stupid cold war era factionalism which we seem to be revitalizing in this country spreads to the moon? And how would we deal with it and figure out who was responsible? I really enjoyed this lunar thriller which is fast becoming a category of books that just can’t go wrong.

The Hangman

More of a novella really, this little book only has some of the characters but a lot of the good aspects of Penny’s best whodunits. Shot and easy to read in not much time. A good filler if you’re waiting for other books from her to be written.

Hard Evidence

The second in the Dismas Hardy series form John Lescroat, still introducing some of the characters. This book felt longer than some of his later ones, divided into a lot of parts. It has the same large cast of characters and general not-sure-whodunit plotlines that I’m used to. A decent read for a snowy holiday.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Usually I read non-fiction. When I’m not reading non-fiction I’m usually reading some sort of quick airplane reading genre fiction, thrillers or mysteries. I used to read a lot more deep sorts of fiction. With complicated sentences and books that made you think after you put them down. Where you wondered about the characters. And got sad when the book was over. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book like that, but this was the one. I got totally immersed in this story of near-future Tokyo and the vaguely but just barely fantastical situation our protagonist finds himself in. It’s a story that feels like it’s imbued with new technology and the internet, but there’s no real tech or internet in it, it just feels like it has it. It’s also a story that has two converging storylines that I didn’t totally hate, which is a bit of a novelty. Delicious book.

Hardware

This is one of the Carlotta Carlyle mystery series. I liked it just fine but at the same time every time I put it down I wasn’t sure I would pick it up again. My sister gave it to me because it takes place in Boston. I enjoyed that as well as the spunky female detective protagonist. However, this story of intrigue in a cabbie company wound up with a high body count and a fairly confusing story line that didn’t always keep me hooked and curious for more.

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.

Harvest

Better than her last novel but not as good as the first novel of hers I read, which I fear may have been her best book. This novel explores a potential seamy underbelly of organ donation politicking without resorting to tired cliches of poor people waking up in bathtubs of ice without their kidneys. The plot moves along. The main character is Abby DiMatteo the doctor we will continue to see in more of Gerritsen’s medical thrillers. In this book she is an internist asked to serve on the prestigious transplant squad whose medical reputation is too good to be true, almost.... You can sort of see where the book is going as soon as it opens up with scenes of children being removed from an orphanage in Eastern Europe, but again Gerritsen manages to make it a human drama, not filled with overwrought cliches.

Head On

Woooo, Lock In finally had a sequel and this one was pretty good. I am someone who really enjoys getting to read works by authors who can write good disabled characters and Scalzi has created a world where 10% of everyone has a Parkinsonian type of disability where they can think fine but can’t move their bodies. There’s an aftermarket business making robots that they can inhabit using sophisticated neural network stuff. And, of course, resultant interesting stuff that comes out of all of it. I like the subtle disability politics that is also part of the larger “what happened?” mystery that is the primary thrust. This book occasionally gets bogged down in a little bit of overexplaining but it’s minor stuff and I was so happy to get to read this.

The Hearing

[review pending]

The Hearts of Horses

Such a great book about old timey (right around WWI) Oregon and a young woman who goes around offering to break horses for people. A lot of sense of place of the Pac NW which is one of the things Gloss does so well. I really enjoyed reading around with her main character and all the people she meets along the way. I’m not really a horse person, but you don’t have to be to enjoy reading this book. So many neat little local tidbits along with just trivia like “Well what would a farmer EAT back then, and where would they get it”

The Heist

I feel like all of these books have sliders, how much is it about art/torture/politics/relationships. This one was more about relationships and art than it was about torture and politics. It also marks the last one I’ve read up to the point where I started this series, with the next book which I may actually re-read since I read it at the beginning of 2016 when life was a little different. Anyhow, this one has a lot of interesting art in it, some Swiss banking and not too much in the way of tradecraft and spy stuff, though there is some. Enjoyable.

Hell and Gone

Another Charlie Hardie. This time he’s stuck in a weird creepy prison scenario which was extra interesting for me because I just watched Escape Plan which is a prison escape movie. Liked it.

Hench

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.

Her Fearful Symmetry

I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and loved in and was hoping this would likewise be good but maybe not as soul-crushingly poignant and ... it was and wasn’t. A very good story centered around a woman who dies and a bunch of people who live near a cemetery. And twins. Niffeneger’s author profile in this book claims she works at HIghgate Cemetery which is sort of true (she did in the process of doing research for the book) and sometimes the book veers a little too far off into factual recitation, but overall it was good and not quite as gut-punching as her debut novel.

Hicksville

Hicksville is a made up town somewhere in New Zealand where everyone is a comics fan and comics are seen as real worthwhile literature. Dylan Horrocks has made the place up and populated it with real people and tells a story of one local guy made good and what happens to him there. There are quite a few little comic stories within the main story which I found a little difficult sometimes to differentiate but I’m sure that has more to do with my own linear eye than the story itself. Horrocks' style is similar to that of many other US indie comics artists but the range he displays in this graphic novel really shows off his abilities. Good story, good drawings, worth picking up.

The Hidden Girl

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

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 Historian

[review pending]

History of Wolves

I am a sucker for these kid weirdo books. This one is much more than that, but that is the underpinning of this rural story about a girl who is fascinated by wolves but also, sort of, raised by them in a small cabin on a lake. At some point a family moves in across the lake and... long story short there is a child who dies and a lot of explanation about what happened next. Oh and a teacher who may have been a predator, or may not have. The whole story is through the eyes of the young adult girl and sometimes it’s tough to tell if she’s intended to be an unreliable narrator or not. I was really sucked into this story, every character seemed real and I could remember being that kid weirdo and my own stories that were not unlike this one.

Hotel Silence

This book was full of difficult issues but over all pretty good to read. It’s about a middle-aged man trying to figure out what is going on with his life after his wife leaves him. He has a daughter he is close with, a neighbor friend and a mother with dementia. It’s tough to be him. He goes away for an unknown location but somewhere that war has destroyed. And he finds a space there, and heals. Unlike some of the other books Iv’e read recently, this book has difficult otpics and descriptions (especially of some of the wartime stuff that has happened to this town) and yet it’s not difficult to manage. There’s a flatness to it that, given the subject matter, actually presents as calm. I liked this very much.

House of Discarded Dreams

Should have quit while I was ahead! This book was suggested in a thread of other books I really liked so I decided to try it despite my misgivings. I don’t like a lot of magical realism and when I do it’s usually stuff like Garcia Marquez’s work which is mostly story with some magical elements tossed in. This book, after the first few very good chapters was ALL magic. I mean it was used as the jumping off point for a lot of good thinking about the nature of things, families, life, etc, but ultimately it never came back around to not-magic and I was disappointed. Might be a great book for someone else, was irritating for me.

House of Spies

These books are becoming a lot less about art restoration and a lot more about dealing with ISIS and especially crazed terrorists and very large scale activities. I liked this book enough but it didn’t have as much of what I liked in the earlier books.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

Really enjoyed this short poignant story about a lower class woman who takes care of an older man with a serious memory problem--he can only remember the last 80 minutes of his life, and things that happened before 1975. The older man is also, was also, a mathematics professor and his mind still engages with math problems even as he has to keep slips of paper attached to himself to remember who his housekeeper is. Lots of levels to this book including baseball and, of course, math.

Housekeeping

I love these spookyweird books with mysterious families and oddball children who live in these left-behind towns. This book is right up there with We Have Always Lived in the Castle in the “haunted isolated families” section. One of the things I liked about both books is that unlike what I perceive to be the general vibe of today, these families don’t all kill or rape each other. There’s no gore or sensationalism, just an unfolding set-apartness that seems to imbue the entire narrative. It’s a matter of fact retelling which occasionally drops little chestnuts like the parlor being floor-to-ceiling full of newspapers and cans. The narrator, the younger daughter is so matter of fact that these little revelations almost seem like an afterthought and you’re left thinking “gee, if I lived with thirten cats, I might have mentioned it sooner” and the odd feeling continues.

This book is about a few generations of odd women and a grandfather who dies in the water, and his daughter who follows suit. it mostly follows the awkward path of the two daughters as they return to the town to be raised by their quirky transient aunt in the house their grandfather built which is in the town that he died in, a town called Fingerbone. The tale unfolds like a fever dream as the sisters choose different paths and each tries to move forward in her own way.

How a Gunman Says Goodbye

Second in the series, liked it very much. Some of the ethics of this whole trilogy are going to depend on who winds up doing well and who winds up doing poorly (a la House of Cards, which people are the good guys...?) but I’m enjoying reading about small town Scottish mobsters for now.

How High We Go In The Dark

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.

How the Light Gets In

Back in Three Pines this story focuses on the combination of a murder mystery and the culmination of the messy corruption scandal at the heart of the Sûreté. Two parallel stories, but one a lot more interesting than the other, I felt the mainstream murder mystery got a little under fleshed out because of the much larger and more interesting/thrilling aspect of this book.

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.

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.

The Hunger Games

Thought I’d like this book after seeing the advertisements for the movie. I was not wrong.

The Hunt Club

This was one of the better cop-type books I’ve read lately. I’m pretty bad at differentiating what is a mystery from a thriller from a cop book from a whatever. This guy is a social worker turned private investigator and he’s put together The Hunt Club (his name is hunt) and they are a crack team of folks who try to get to the bottom of a murder of a well-off judge. Along the way a woman vanishes who is a bit of a love interest and that story seems to take as much precendence as the dead judge. The characters are inteersting, the story is well written and the main lead is an interesting person who doens’t make a bunch of dumb decisions like a lot of other cop book protagonists I could name.

The only thing really perplexing about this book was the ending. I won’t say much more about it except when I finished it, a few days after my sister read it , we both asked each other “what was your take on the ending?” So, if you wind up reading this book, I’d love to know what you thought about the ending.

I Am Pilgrim

I can not tell a lie, I got this book as a Klout Perk and it was actually pretty good. Really good in fact. A bioterror thriller involving an inscrutable terrorist and the guy working for a shady US intelligence service who was assigned to stop him from killing everyone in the world. Very nitpicky. Very well done. It’s gotten some flack for being sort of anti-Muslim since there is a lot of negative weight given to the primary terrorist who is a bit of a zealot. I paged through this, in hardcover, zip zip zip and was sorry when it was over and sorry that there weren’t any other fiction books from Hayes to read next.

I Will Bite You

One of the things I love about the graphic novel format is the author’s ability to take you inside some strange places you might not otherwise understand. A lot of Lambert’s stories are pretty strange and confusing (to me) but reveal a really interesting mind.

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.

Iced in Paradise

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.

If Then

I loved where this book started and it lost me partway through and never totally got me back. This is an interesting slipstream-y novel where you’re never really sure when “now” is and which version of the present tense action is actually real. Not that it totally matters, but I really liked the first version of reality, with its fully baked characters and a lot of interesting interpersonal dynamics nd just wasn’t as interested in the second part of the store which was basically... a war story. Not only a war story--with basically nearly all male characters talking about war--but one predicated on suffering. Which, had I known that going in, I would not have read. So, mostly a bad fit. De Abaitua is clearly a super capable writer who put a lot of work into this, but I felt like someone would have to, first off, enjoy war novels to be able to want to get at the more complex stuff going on behind the second (and to a lesser extend, third) part of this novel.

In The Woods

This book was terrific. Tana French manages to put together a book that is part mystery and part... nostalgia bit without any of the parts really screwing up the other parts. The modern day part of the story is about a detective who has to investigate a child who was murdered in a local woods. The kicker is that this cop was himself the victim of a crime in the same area. He has a female partner who he has a super close relaitonship with and they have a sort of nice thing going. And then, as you’d expect, things fall apart. I loved the writing and I loved the story and unlike other books I’ve read this month, this one did not have a sadistic streak in it which meant that dealing with difficult topics [childrens' death, possible child abuse and child sexual abuse] was okay reading.

In This Grave Hour

So far so good. The most recent book by Winspear is a sort of “back to basics” with the old gang back again and a nice home grown mystery. Liked this better than the one before it. Now everyone’s old enough to have kids who are old enough to enlist and I find myself wishing they don’t get killed off in future Dobbs novels.

An Incomplete Revenge

I was worried about this book at first because it featured Roma characters and often novelists can use this effect for some “color” in the story without actually knowing or caring much about the Roma themselves. This was not a problem in this story which fleshes out some of Dobbs' background by way of what she knows about Roma culture. Not perfect, but not bad.

Incriminating Evidence

This was a decent book in one of those genres where you can’t remember the name of the book because all of the titles are more or less the same. This is one of a series about a married and then divorced but still sleeping together pair of lawyers who works out of San Francisco. My favorite thing about the book is the attention to San Francisco details. Since I know my way around some of the locations they are referring to, it was fun to get to visualize where they were talking about. This story was also detail-rich in other ways a lot of characters who are mostly decent complicated people -- i.e. very few two-dimensional villains -- and a plot that goes in and out and up and down. This story does have an internet aspect to it which is amusing since so much has changed since 2002 when it was written. Overall: liked it, didn’t love it, would probably read other books by this author if I were looking for a vacation/plane book again.

Inferno

Enjoyed this book significantly more than the last Brown book I read. He seemed to get the message that keeping things a little more linear and a little less gory would go over better, or maybe I was just more interested in this story with Italy and Dante at the core than one with Masonic conspiracies and Washington DC as central plot points. Enjoyed it, did not get too deep into it.

The Infinite Blacktop

I loved this series so much! This book doesn’t tie everything up but it ties a lot of stuff up. All three of these Claire DeWitt books are a refreshing change of pace from usual hard-boiled detective tropes. The female detective is both terrific but also deeply flawed and, while she does have a fair amount of sex, is not a femme fatale. I appreciated her and her variable morality and her blind spots as well as her strengths in detection. Sorry there are not more of these, I thought they were terrific.

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 Informationist

Thought this was going to be more librarian-y but this African thriller is a pretty interesting romp through a mysterious disappearance coupled with a hard-edged cross-dressing “fixer” who won’t stop until she’s solved the problem.

Inner Circle

I enjoyed the little parts of this book that talk about nerdy library/archives trivia stuff. The plot was one of the more far-out ones that Meltzer has come up with and was not my favorite. Too jumbled up, too all over the place, too much you looking at the book thinking “Why are they doing this, that looks like it will get them into trouble...” and sure enough, it does.

The Innocent

This may have been a bit too icky for my tastes but I really like the semi-androgynous main character Vanessa Michael Munroe who we saw in the Informationist and wanted to see more of her. In this book she’s going down to Argentina trying to get a young girl out of a gross cult where children are routinely abused. But, it gets complicated. As much as I was happy they didn’t do that usual trope-ish thing of trying to get to the girl before her honor is besmirched, it still had a bit too much icky child abuse in it for my personal tastes. Enjoyed the internal conflicts of the main character. Will definitely pick up the next book.

Interpreter of Maladies

Trying very hard to get on my “more diverse authors” bandwagon. This book was perfect. I got it from a library book sale, had never heard of it before and was completely engrossed by the stories of people in India or Indian Americans and their experiences both at home and in the US. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this and also lived in Rhode Island which gave many of the US stories a familiar feel. A lot of places I recognized (Cambridge, Boston, the Charles) seen through eyes that made it less familiar. All in all a great collection.

Into the Dream

William Sleator’s book House of Stairs was a particular favorite of mine as a YA novel and when I saw this book on a free pile at the local library, I figured I’d take it home and see what it was like. I enjoyed it. it was a super quick read wiht the basic premise being two kids who find out they’re having a nearly identical dream and one that fills them with a sense of urgency. They have to muddle out what it all means, together, and the two kids are sort of opposites. He’s from a brainy academic family, she’s from more like the wrong side of the tracks but only together can they figure out what’s going on, which they eventually do. The book is well-written and suspenseful and only a little scifi-ish.

The Intuitionist

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

The Invention of Morel

[review pending]

Jar of Fools

I had read this comic when it was serialized in The Stranger a long time ago and recently came across the graphic novel. It’s more fun to read this story in one sitting because a lot of the smaller vignettes are best understood as parts of the whole and you’re left feeling really bleak and terrible in small doses otherwise, or at least I was. This is a poignant story about a drunk magician trying to get over the suicide of his brother, with an ex-girlfriend he still loves and a mentor who is in and out of a rest home. He meets people who live under the bridge in a car - a confidence man and his daughter -- and they all try to muddle their way through life.

The illustrations and the plotline are totally excellent in this short novel; the palpable ennui is the perpetual extra character and the stark black and white drawings give the reader a real feeling of isolation and hopelessness. That said, the book has its strong and uplifting moments and this first installment ends on a cautious up note.

Jennifer Government

A fun dystopic ramble through a future where US capitalism takes over everything and you only exist to the extent that you are working for (or owned really) by a corporation. This is an older novel by Barr, the guy who wrote Lexicon and I’d heard about it in the past. It’s super violent but mostly in a cartoony way and I enjoyed watching it all unfold.

Jericho’s Fall

This was a little more thriller and a little less story than the last one. A lot of Carter’s novels seem to hinge on there being some unbearable awfulness that other people will do anything to keep secret. Usually I like that but this was a little too creepy, too many people isolated alone in a house without cell phones, it wasn’t as fun a read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I kept waiting for something to really happen in this book. I enjoyed the general narrative, felt it was about 40% too long and read it on Kindle so I missed the footnotes which is probably for the best.

Journey to Munich

Really did not like the last book. Glad I stuck it out for this one. Winspear’s books about her intrepid female detective have been weirdly uneven of late. This one gets back on the more traditional track. Not as much dwelling on backstory and Dobbs' somewhat confusing emotional issues. More plot-based and some really interesting looks into pre-war Germany in the 30s at the time of the rise of Hitler. Enjoyable and at the end we’re looking at her doing more detecting.

The Kaiju Preservation Society

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 Keeper of Lost Causes

The person who suggested I read this book is now officially not allowed to reccommend books for me unless she lets me know if there is torture in it or not.

The Keepsake

I haven’t read any Gerritsen books in a while so was happy to stumble on this one in a thrift store and realize I hadn’t read it. This is another medical cop thriller that takes place in the Boston area and it’s a faced-paced romp of dead ends and odd but not annoying plot twists. I really liked her Medical thrillers. I’ll have to dip more into the Rizzoli/Isles series now.

The Kill Artist

Read a thriller I liked off of the new shelf, enjoyed it, and then was happy to find out that it was one of a long series. Started at the beginning and the first book is pretty good so far. A little bit of Israel/Palestine relations stuff that I’m not totally sure I understand, but generally speaking, enjoyable with interesting characters.

Killer Year: Stories to Die For.

What a great book! I picked it up at a library book sale thinking it would be good to bring on a trip and sort of wondering how crime fiction was going to translate into short stories. I read a lot of mysteries and have read some true crime in my day but it was all book length stuff. So I went into this collection --an attempt to sort of show off some of the best short crime writing from 2008--with a bit of skepticism but it was all so good. All the stories were succinct, gripping and many stuck with me for days afterwards. Most of the stories also have introductions from other crime writers which was a really nice touch. All in all it really gave the crime writing genre a palpable feel as a thing in addition to being a great collection of readable stories which I think was part of the point.

Kingdom of the Blind

The latest in the Gamache series. A good one about the really corrosive effects of street drugs. That said, a little too much of the phrase “junkies and tr*nnies and whores” for my tastes even if the main character did do a good job of using correct pronouns later on. People moving in new directions and an interesting main story and side story. Read over a few long airport stays. Worthwhile.

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

Finished this book right after New Year’s Eve. I’ve been reading a lot more Judaica lately and enjoyed this look into what exactly klezmer music IS, as told through a story of a bunch of random musiciains who find each other. Great story with a lot of interesting facts and extra details there at the end. Apparently this is just book one so I need to go find book two!

The Lace Reader

It’s been a while since I read some fiction that I thought was really worth the trip. This one takes place locally (Salem MA) but over several decades (mostly through flashbacks and rememberings) and is mainly a story about “quirky” women and a lot of “You can’t go home again” misplaced nostalgia. Hard to really talk about it without putting you in the narrative somewhere other than the beginning but if you like seaside narratives that aren’t too schmaltzy and are about strange women with confusing pasts, this is for you.

The Languid Belly of the Beast

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

Large Print

Enjoyed this. Love these guys. Everyone should buy a copy of this book, two maybe.

LaserWriter II

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.

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 Last Chance Library

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

Last Exit

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.

The Last Policeman

Such a great premise! The world is ending in six months, infrastructure is falling apart, cops still have jobs. This is the story of one such cop, a newly-promoted detective who takes his job more seriously than you’d expect. The plot around this is also good and the writing, especially the possible-world “What would the US look like if everyone knew with certainty that the world was ending in six months” is great storytelling. The cop is a bit of an aspy type, very dogged, not particularly good at people skills but very good at being a cop. First of a trilogy.

The Last Templar

In the spirit of Dan Brown types of mysteries, this is a historical-sounding fiction book about a repressed religious mystery. It was more fun to read than the average book of this stripe, but there was a little too much pontificating in that “Let me tell you about the Templars” way in the middle.

The Last Treasure

This was a YA novel that a pal of mine sent me. I like to read good YA fiction and I really enjoyed this book. It’s loosely another book that falls into the “weird isolated family” genre. There is a family that lives in a small weird town. They have nine identical houses that are all arranged around a small park. The threee houses on the south end are “treasure houses” which have, in the past, been the location of mysteries and, ultimately, riches. When the family finds itself down on its luck with the remaining members old and feuding, two teenagers -- one stuck spending the summer there and one who comes of his own volition -- decide to untabgle the mystery of the last house. The kids are interesting. The story-line is believable and yet just a wee bit fantastic, and the ups and downs of being one person in a huge crazy family are reflected upon. This is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year and a good fun mystery book, even for pretty little kids.

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.

Leaving Everything Most Loved

An interesting book in the series, this one shows a lot of changes happening. Maisie closing up her agency, her staff going separate ways and, of course, a mystery in the middle of it which talks about the history of Indian migration to England, somewhat. I found parts of this book a little too pat and I’m finding the “will she or won’t she?” aspect of her relationship tiresome, but otherwise I’m looking forward to new wind in the sails of this series.

Less

Most of the fiction I read is either scifi or some kind of mystery/thriller, it was refreshing to read a vevry good book about none of those topics. Less is an affable 50 year old gay man. The guy he was with longterm is marrying someone else. He hurls himself into a large number of work type obligations in order to forget. And does not forget. This book is mildly funny. and overall sort of heartwarming but not in a glurgy way. Nearly every character is a man. I’ll seek out other books Greer has written.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

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.

A Lesson in Secrets

Another in the series. I enjoyed it since it seemed to “move the plot along” both in terms of Maisie’s development but also in terms of the atmosphere of the world around her in terms of encroaching Nazism and people’s feelings about it. There’s also the subtext about the role of pacifism or dissent in this environment as well. A thoughtful novel.

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.

Leviathan Wakes

A suggestion from Twitter! This was suggested as a good book if I wanted to read more about people trying to communicate with AIs or maybe... “Other intelligence". This after maybe reading too much about sentient spiders in the other book. This one was much better. It had two storylines (that interwove) but both were good! And there is a lot going on. Good female characters. A lot of space life stuff. Not too much "eternal war.” I’ll read the next one!

Lexicon

Loved this book but it was really dark. Someone suggested it to me as an intelligent and rapid specfic thriller. I’d really enjoyed other books especially Suarez’s Daemon and a few others and I tore into this right after reading Brilliance. And it was good, the two books have a very very similar format (fast paced chapters interspersed with pop culture types of references) and plot (big changes in the world and totalitarian type government secretly trying to gain more power) but other than that, they’re different. This one starts off for a long time with you pretty unclear as to what’s going on and it jumps around a lot in time. I usually hate this as a device but it worked really well in this one. I’m going to go and find more stuff that Max Barry has done.

The Library at Mount Char

I think I thought this was going to be more like the John Dunning bookish mysteries. Instead this is a full out fantasy torture porn book that happens to have a library (and reading) featured in it. It ends on a slightly up note which I was hoping since the book, while well written, is a serious gorefest and slog. Read the interview with the author in LJ and while he seems like a decent guy this book was horrifying and not always in a good way. Lots and lots of brutality against everyone: children, adults, dogs, the planet.

Library Card

I have been reading some more YA books lately since the weather and the short days are conspiring to give me a very short attention span. This book is actually a collection of short short stories for young teens. They profile a few different situations where kids in tough straits -- living in a car, moving to a new town, watching too much TV, hanging out with tough kids in the city -- find a library card and get some help at the library. The stories have a wee bit of a supernatural edge to them, but for those of us who are pretty convinced of the magicalness of libraries, this does not seem that suprising.

The Library of Lost and Found

On the new shelf at the library. A sweet not-too-complicated book about a librarian who finds a secret in a book that reveals something about her family. You think it’s going to go one way and then it goes... a slightly different way. I enjoyed it, was a light summer read. Relatable librarian.

Library of Shadows

A good mystery book with a bit of a magical realist vibe to it, this is the story of a high powered lawyer whose father dies mysteriously who then finds himself the heir to his estranged father’s bookstore. Then he comes upon a shadowy collection of book folks who have some slightly supernatural powers, and then stuff starts to get even deeper and more involved. This book was translated from the original Danish which may or may not explain a bit of why it sounds so stilted. I enjoyed the characters and the story but occasionally felt that it lapsed into cliche and/or tropes. However, at its core this is a story about books and readers and listeners and that alone (well maybe in addition to the long train ride) propelled me forward into finishing it to figure out what happened and whodunit.

The Library of the Dead

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.

The Life I Really Lived

I know just enough about Jessamyn West to know that some of this novel mirrors some of her real life, but nowhere near enough to know where the line is. I do know that West moved from the plains to California, that she wrote a book that was turned into a movie and that she got to meet the movie star and spend some time with him. In this book, some similar stuff happens. The main character is a quirky loner writer with a preacher brother who gets into some trouble. She dates the movie star but then loses him in a very awkward situation. She writes sixteen books and becomes well known and famous. In the book her brother has TB and eventually dies from it. In real life West had TB and lived another 60 years.

In any case, West’s clear direct writing style, her interesting and multi-faceted female characters and her astute observations on the nature of human behavior make this book a great read, even decades after it was written. Many quotations attributed to West come from this book and it was surpising to be so familiar with the aphorisms it held while being totally unaware of the entire plot and characters.

Likely to Die

My sister handed me this book on the plane and said there weren’t too many rape scenes in it and that I might like it. Fairstein is one of those mystery/thriller type of writers who talks a lot about cop work and forensic work and I’ve had a hard time finding good mysteries in that vein that weren’t total “terrorize the heroine” thrillers. This one has faded form memory pretty quickly but I remember enjoying reading it on the plane. It’s an Alexandra Cooper mystery loosely about the stabbing death of a very promient female neurosurgeon in an inner-city hospital. Fairstein plays her cards close and until the very end of it, you really don’t much know whodunit but the cop work is pretty interesting. On the other hand, it’s not one of those solve-it-yourself books, so until the end of the book you really don’t have enough information to figure out who the killer is. On that front I found it a little less than optimal because I felt like towards the end I was just reading along waiting for the reveal. Good airplane reading.

The Likeness

Enjoyed this book by French which is not quite a sequel but has some of the same characters from her first novel In The Woods. This story has a weird murder with an improbable twist: the dead girl looks exactly like one of the detectives. This sets an undercover plot in motion which, like in the last novel, goes somewhat wrong because the characters are people with real feelings and emotions, not dull cop automatons. Whether this works for you or not will probably affect how much you like it, but I enjoyed it a great deal.

The Lincoln Lawyer

[review pending]

Lincoln’s Dreams

It’s clear from reading this book that some of the events in it are experiements with some of the theme’s in Willis' book Passage. It’s a book about dreams, the dreams of the past and their effect on the reality of the future. However, where I was really interested in the people who were dreaming about the Titanic -- something about large scale disasters perhaps -- I cared much less about dreams about the prosaic events surrounding the Civil War. perhaps it’s just me. The dreams seem to be the richest part of this story with the characters in the present day not quite as fleshed out or understandable. While I generally enjoy Willis' writing, this book was on the low end of her overall body of work.

The Little Book: A Novel

There’s a special sort of nostalgia fiction that always presses my buttons and this book is one of those. It’s sort of a time travel novel but not really. There is a lot of people figuring out just what is going on and once you learn “the truth” it’s clear that this is mostly a book about getting there and not being there. A lot of background noise about the rise of fascism in Vienna and some famous people who you have heard of make appearances. I felt the book was strongest when it was not talking about Mahler or Freud but fans of those folks might find that to be an extra special benefit.

Little Brother

I read Cory Doctorow’s YA book Little Brother on the plane home from the library conference after seeing him speak on a panel on privacy and then coming home to learn that my LOCAL library, one who pays me occasionally, had, um, had a visit.

If you have/know smart kids who love computers, this is one of very few books I’ve seen that gets inside what really techie people are like, and it’s a decent YA novel at the same time, deals with a terrorist event where the Bay Bridge is blown up and civil rights get suspended, etc. If you know Cory’s work you’ll know how it goes, but I was surprised how engaging it was at the same time as it painted a dystopian near future and hit all the EFF-ish talking points.

Some of the web has a hate-on for Cory a lot of the time, but I like him and his writing. I like to read about people who are really deep into a tech universe. Few activists come across sounding so smart about tech.

Little Heathens

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.

Lock In

Hey this just came out! And I know John Scalzi a little bit. So I was excited to read this since I hadn’t read any of his stuff before. And he has a movie deal for it. So cool. I enjoyed this book about a slightly slant future in which there was a flu-like epidemic but instead of people dying they just got Parkinson’s-style locked in, unable to interact with the outside world. But there were enough people like this that a social safety net of sorts was built for them. And then people started messing with it. Hard to explain without giving too much of it away. I liked the story. I felt like there were maybe too many “And here is where I explain the thing” parts to it, some of it was a bit too pat, but that’s just me being an internet nitpicker about it. This is a good book.

The Long Way Home

Hard to talk about this book without spoilers so I’ll just say that it was less coppish and more travelogue than a lot of her books. Enjoyed it but not as much as a lot of the other ones.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

A space exploration novel written by a woman and featuring a TRULY diverse cast of characters. Loved it.

The Lost for Words Bookshop

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.

The Lost Symbol

It’s hard to tell when you like a popular fiction writer that a lot of people don’t like and they say “Don’t read his latest book” if they’re saying that because the book is a bad book of his or just a bad book. I did not like this book. I liked other Dan Brown books. It seemed to suffer from lack of editing, was too long and had a long rambly bla bla bible part at the end that was gratuitous and a little insulting. I like basic puzzle-ish books and Dan Brown’s level of “Hey let me tell you about this symbol” stuff is fine with me. But this story sort of wrapped up and then had a super long denoument part that was a snore and mostly talked about the bible which is a bit of symbolism that has sort of been done to death and I didn’t need to read more about. You may like it, I did not.

Machine

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

Machine Man

So good! So creepy! This book about an engineer who get in an accident at the lab and then is surprised to learn he likes his prosthesis in some ways better than his actual limbs. Enough that he tries to get more of them... You never know where this book is going. It has a Repo Man feel to it. It’s sort of gross in parts. I have really liked Barry’s books in the past but this may be my favorite.

Maelstrom

Picked this up from the library only to find that it was a sequel to a book I hadn’t read. Got that book first and really enjoyed these two books by Watts. I had read his book Blindsight earlier and found it a little too creepy and hard to relate to. This book had more of a story to it and the futuristic dystopia seemed really real without having too much over-the-top science explication in it.

Mafeking Road

[review pending]

The Magicians

I enjoyed this. Grossman’s last book that I read was Codex which some people likened to a Da Vinci Code ripoff btu I actually liked it better than the Da Vinci Code. This book was terrific in that Harry Potter sort of “kid goes to Wizard School” way but I’m afraid it sort of petered off for me at the end when the kids grew up and got fighty and then had to fight som sort of WAR in the magical world they found themselves in. Excellent characters, excellent sense of place, the plot wasn’t my thing.

Maisie Dobbs

Excellent, a new series I can get into which will continue my enjoyment of sort of period mysteries that aren’t too gruesome or rapey. So far liking this one.

Makers

I like Doctorow’s works generally, but I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would, just lying around and reading through the entire thing over a weekend. It’s a long story about one possible future for maker culture, And includes a lot of utopic and dystopic elements along with a healthy serving of Disney. A lot of sympathetic and interesting characters.

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.

The map of lost memories

An interesting travel mystery about people searching for lost scrolls in the dense jungles of Cambodia via Shanghai and Saigon. Some unreflective Colonialism and then some reflective Colonialist, this book has a heroine who is thoughtful and smart and a snappy dresser to boot and she has interpersonal mysteries to unravel as well as the ones of the lost temples and missing scrolls. Kept me interested all the way through to the end.

The Mapping of Love and Death

I’d been growing a little tired of these so read a bunch of other books in-between. This was a better one in the series with a lot of complex plots including an American (!) killed in WWI. Maisie starts dating someone seriously and her mentor dies shifting her into a different situation concerning her need to work and etc. A lot of loose ends tied up, a good story, a good read.

Marble Mask

Another good vaguely international Gunther mystery. This one takes place both in Vermont and over the border in Sherbrook Quebec and concerns a dead guy found on the top of a mountain in Stowe. It’s the first real case for the Vermont Bureau of investigation and there’s a lot of inter-agency wrangling and a lot of harkening back to old Vermont. Enjoyed it.

March

I love how I can be a librarian and still not know about an author who I absolutely love. This was the second of three Brooks books I’m working my way through, a historical fiction account of Mister March from Little Women and what happened to him when he went off with the soldiers. It’s a really interesting look at the South during the civil war, along with the abolitionist North’s reaction to some of it. Great story, lush with detail and the added aspect of somewhat unreliable narrators made this book--a book I wasn’t so sure I’d like at the outset--into one of the better books I’ve read this year.

Mariposa

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.

Mark of the Assassin

The assassin’s mark is that he shoots people three times in the face. This is from a small series (2) that Silva wrote before the Gabrial Allon series. I like it only because it’s not all about Israel. Same general stuff. Good and compelling. Moves you along. Strong female characters for the most part, one who is good at archery.

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 Martian: A Novel

Since I have read this book--which I did in two sittings, very compelling--every time something goes wrong around here I tell myself “well at least you are not stranded on Mars popping into a plastic box” This is a great book about an astronaut stranded on Mars and the full court press to get him home. Soon to be a major motion picture, I hear. It’s interesting, you like the character and you maybe learn a little bit about science while you’re reading it.

The Mask

Another good book in the series. I found this one a little hard to follow towards the end because there were so many players with differing agendas and at the end I’m not totally sure if I knew what happened. More good Monroe emotionally working stuff out stuff and a lot more questions about the future of her relationship with Bradford. Definitely a lot less creepy than some of her previous books which I appreciated.

Medusa Uploaded

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

A Memory Called Empire

Since I’m done with The Expanse I really wanted more “epic spacers” This is a good book that has a lot to do with... alien diplomacy for lack of a better world. A woman come to the new planet where she is to be ambassador only to find that her previous ambassador has likely been murdered. And there’s a succession battle happening on the planet. And she gets caught in the middle of all the drama. A very good and readable book but I wanted a little more in the human relations category and a little less of the “palace intrigue” variety. Enjoyed it but won’t be picking up the sequel.

The Messenger

The Pope almost gets assassinated! This was a slightly weird book about a super rich Saudi man who is financing a lot of global terrorism. A plan is hatched to take down that guy’s “money man.” It takes a long time and a lot of team effort. Ultimately that plan fails. Later, Allon manages to kill these people no his own leading one to ask “If he could have done this the whole time, why drag everyone in to it?” A confusing but very lively story.

Messenger of Truth

Yet another in this series. They’re still holding my attention though I am concerned as we slip closer and closer to WWII times.

Mickey7

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.

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.

The Millionaires

Better than I thought it would be, this financial thriller winds up taking what looks to be a typical good brother/bad brother tale and turning it into a fast-paced whodunit. Nothing fancy, but totally okay for reading on planes.

Mockingjay

I somehow managed to not read any of these books when they came out even though I knew they were immensely popular. And then for some reason, I think because I had seen the ads for the movie, I decided to read them all over about a week. I enjoyed them, I had some issues with them. All in all I was not only happy to read them but happy to have one more popular book that I liked well enough that I can talk to people at the library about. Lots more thinky stuff about how the kids are all used as pawns and a lot of the critique of nation-states that I perceived in the texts, but as stories even the books were quite good and it’s a refreshing change to see a female lead who isn’t (entirely) either an emotionless robot or a dim-witted pawn. The books, it seems, make her out to be some of each from time to time but not wholly one or the other.

Monday the Rabbi Took Off

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.

The Moon and the Other

This was a great deep book about a ;lunar colony but really about reimagining society to see what different types and groupings of people might exist if you got to start sort of from scratch. This book takes place on the moon. There are lunar colonies and they are very different. Some of them seem like Earth II and some of them are entirely different, with women in charge, men in subservient roles and a whole bunch of different ways of doing things. There are inevitable conflicts. This book is a fascinating thought experiment into how some of those types of conflicts get resolved. One of those books where I finish reading it and then want to go read about the book to learn more about the topics in it in depth.

Moon of the Crusted Snow

I think I had stayed away from this book when I first saw it because the pickup truck in the snow on the cover reminded me of some spooky movie I hadn’t wanted to watch. I am sorry I stayed away from this book, it was great. A maybe-post-apocalyptic tale of a First Nations band and their reservation settlement, trying to come to grips with what might be happening the rest of the world. There’s some old ways/new ways clashing and it’s interesting watching how different characters try to work things out. It has a gentleness to it, despite the subject matter and I will try to track down Rice’s other story collection.

Moriarty

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

Moscow Rules

Yay more painting and a little less Holocaust. Enjoyed this look into Russian arms dealing with a little bit of French Riviera tossed in for good measure.

Motherless Brooklyn

A really poignant story which I read while home with a low grade fever which may be the best way to read this book. Sort of an odd coming of age tale told as a first person narrative by someone with Tourette’s. And better than you would think it would be, given that description.

Moving Target

Another one of those great mystery books about a book. This one is heavy on the romance and a little less heavy on the bibliophilia, but Lowell does an admirable job predicting (when this book was written in 2002) what sorts of technologies people in the high class rarities business would be using that still rings true in 2012. This is the first book of Lowell’s that I’ve read and from the Amazon reviews it seems that people don’t think it measures up to her better work. I liked this book just fine but I like even more that there are better books by her yet to read.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

A modern retelling of The Abortion with secrets and codebreaking. I enjoyed this book which I received as an Advanced Reader’s Copy. There are old mysteries and new mysteries and Google is as much a character in this story as the bookstore and the books themselves. It’s rare to get a book about books that both gets the appeal and the hold of the printed word and at the same time can describe the passion behind a lot of the technology that we interact with daily. Usually I find authors are steadfastly in one or the other “camp” and I was happy to see Sloan was not tipping his hand in that regard and able to write characters that lived firmly in both worlds. Curious to see what, if anything, he chooses to do with penvmbra.com

Murder in Chianti

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.

Murder on Fifth Avenue

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.

Murder on Lexington Avenue

This was a period piece mystery that a friend handed to me. It was clearly partway along in a series because there were a lot of “knowing looks” passing between a few of the characters. I enjoyed seeing a slice of NYC right in the cusp of cars and electricity where, again, a lot of your life’s situation depended on your status. This book had the added commentary of the status of Deaf people in the world, were they learning ASL or lip reading? Not something I’ll probably go back to but a competent mystery if a little overwrought at times.

N.E.R.D.S.

I liked but did not love this book. I think I was expecting a YA nerd story but what I got was a tween thriller. Which is FINE, it was a fun book to read though maybe I was not its target demographic.

Nature of the Beast

I thought this was one of Penny’s better books. She’s getting a lot better at just showing not telling, so there are a lot of parts of this story that she implies and doesn’t spell out. Just what did the bad man do to those children? Just how big WAS that gun they found? Letting the reader make up their own mind is part of what makes this book a really enjoyable read. Penny is great at getting all of her characters into the situation in new ways that you may not have seen them before without being all “Hey did you know that character X was a sky diver???” and I enjoy learning new things about the character. This book was great, sad it’s over.

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter

A random pick up from a library shelf, this is a book about a hit man for the Irish mob. Interesting and without some of the usual issues. Could use more female characters.

Nemesis Games

I went through this whole book thinking the title (which is just grey on black in my Kindle Keyboard edition) was Nemesis GATES which made more sense for this story of, in a lot of ways, the end of the world. Our heroes are split up for a lot of this and terrible things are happening everywhere. While it’s not quite so much of a slog as the gradual worsening of the last book, there is a lot of terrible stuff happening and you learn a lot more backstory for one of the characters. Still enjoyable. I feel like I’ve read a lot this month.

Network Effect

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

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

So interesting! Authors writing stories that are evocative of Lovecraft, only written in this century. Some of the stories were fairly traditional and/or somewhat derivative (which was sort of the point) and others did really interesting things with the style and content to create all new interesting-in-their-own-right tales. Some of the bits did get a little repetetive and I felt like some authors did a little too much gorey explosition instead of the creepy horror-by-implication which Lovecraft was really famous for. My faves were stories that dealt directly with alienation and some of HPL’s more problematic personality issues at the same time as they wrote great stories.

New England White

Someone handed me Carter’s first book and I really loved it. Got this one at a flea market and felt the same. They are Grishamlike mysteries but a little bit more complex and actually address racial issues while they also deal with the whodunitaspect of whatever has happened. Carter is smart with his writing and his plots are complex. His characters and by and large well to do black people who are often not that well represented in mainstream mysteries. I am excited to read more of Carter’s books.

The New Girl

I definitely have the pattern to these down. You think there’s going to be some sort of action, there’s a lot of spycraft setting it up. Then the action happens and something goes wrong. Then there’s the makeup part of it. Then one of the people is captured. Then there’s a vengeance and/or a make-up part of it. I liuke these books, but this one had a dead kid in it which I like less well. I like the art restoration parts and this had none of that (though there is a painting part). Above all, though, this book talks about the various factions in the Middle East and there’s a lot of interplay between Saudi Arabian higher ups and Israeli higher ups (with Russian and British thrown in for good measure). Good reading, same as most of them.

Nexus

Enjoyed this dystopic look at a future where drugs can allow us some semblance of telepathy and the friction that is caused by people who want to free up those drugs versus those who want to control them. That said it was super duper bloody and gory much more than I would have read if I had known that. Everyone, the good guys and the bad guys, get really relentlessly pummeled, hurt and seriously maimed and wounded. I’ve heard great things about Naam’s non-fiction work and I have no doubt that he knows his stuff, I’m just not sure if it’s the right stuff for me.

No Gods, NoMonsters

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.

Noumenon

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

Now, Then, and Everywhen

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

Occam’s Razor

This one was more my style. Lots of Vermont-y stuff going on, a lot less confusing international intrigue and a lot of dorky procedural stuff including seeing the origin story for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation which I knew about but didn’t really know about. One of my favorite of the recent books.

Odds Against Tomorrow

I could not, for the life of me, remember the name of this book as I was reading it. It was suggested to me by people who had liked the other books I’d recently read and I liked it but did not love it. It didn’t cohere. The main character wasn’t particularly sympathetic. It seemed to end in the middle. The general topic--disaster prognosticators and insurers and what happens when NYC is well and truly underwater--is fascinating but then the story is populated with Gibson-like nearly cyberpunk cool characters who I didn’t really understand. Book was at its best talking about drowned NYC, at its worst when trying to move the story along with character development.

Oil on Water

Grabbed off of the shelf of the library this book about the Nigerian Delta is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. Lots of little micro-stories about love and hope and lack of both are scattered throughout this narrative about a white woman possibly taken by rebels and one journalist’s search for her.

On A Sunbeam

This book started as a webcomic but I picked it off of the library shelf because it was LONG and it was a graphic novel. It’s great. There are no boys or men in it, though there is one character who uses they/them pronouns. And the gender balance isn’t really central to the story which is more about growing up and space travel and figuring out what you really want out of life. Also it’s lush and lovely despite having an oddly restricted color palette. An excellent read.

On Basilisk Station

I went to my local library and was browsing their great SF section and the librarian recommended this. I like geeky hard science stuff, and series and she thought this might be good. And it sort of was, but ultimately wasn’t. A little too militaristic (I like science but not necessarily warfare) and while I loved the treecat idea, I wasn’t that into most of the rest of the characters. Oh well. Trying to get better at not finishing books.

On Kingdom Mountain

Best book I’ve read all year, a story of Old Vermont (1930’s) and the quirky folks who live in a small town in the Northeast Kingdom. This was one of those books that makes me wistful for a time and era I never really saw in Vermont in that sort of nostalgic way that people up here sometimes do. It tells the story of a woman who grew up on Kingdom Mountain. She’s a bit eccentric but isn’t everyone. One day a man in a biplane crash lands near her and she takes him home and the tale begins. He is looking for some lost treasure. She is sorting out family stuff and trying to fight the people who want to build a road over her mountain. The language and characters seem real and the pages turn easily. Recommended for anyone who has ever loved Vermont.

The Once and Future Witches

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

One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross

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.

One Mile Under

A Ty Hauck book! I thought this would be better. And it was better but only just. I missed Hauck but there wasn’t so much of him in this book actually and it was more slightly schlocky thriller stuff. No relationship stuff and not that much of a mystery, more like an annoying female character who keeps forcing herself into the situations and then, surprise, something bad happens to her. I think I am done with Gross.

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.

Orfeo

Powers clearly has such passion for his subjects. I loved the Gold Bug Variations but was a little more adrift in this one because there were a lot of descriptions of musical stuff that I just couldn’t picture in my mind. Enjoyable but the main plot (guy is trying to do something hinky merging science and music and is maybe going to get in big trouble) gets interwoven with backstory enough so I really wanted to just read one linear story and not the intermerged one. This is the failure of me as a reader and not Powers but it made this book less awesome than it could have been.

The Orphan’s Guilt

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

The Other Woman

The newest one in the series. The enemy is Russia, it’s all about a double agent, very little Chiara or the kids and no art restoration. I am not enjoying the Russia arc as much as some of the other ones from the past.

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.

The Overstory

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

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

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

Paradise City

I really should stop reading these books out of order, but each time I see an Archer Mayor book I haven’t read, I go snagging it. But now that I’ve read this, as of now his second to last book, I already know who dies from some earlier books. Oh well. This is another great Mayor book that ventures south of Vermont and takes place largely in the Northampton MA area. I even saw Hampshire College mentioned in there for a sec. As always it’s a lively romp and you’re never quite sure whodunit. Worth reading.

The Paradox Hotel

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.

Pardonable Lies

Continuing to enjoy these. We’re now more in the 30st, post WWI but before WWII. Maisie gets in some trouble with people following her around, has to ferret some things out. I like how these novels progress from one to the next, it’s not the same story over and over and the main character learns things.

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.

The Passage

[review pending]

The Patriarch

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

The Patron Saint of Second Chances

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.

The Peacekeeper

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.

People of the Book

Ask MetaFilter had a thread with someone asking for historical type mysteries, listing other books I’d read and enjoyed. This book was suggested and my sister is a Brooks fan so I figured I’d try it out. Loved it. It’s a historical fiction piece about a book restorer working on some of the “who/what/where/why” stuff concerning the Sarajevo Hagaddah. The lead character is an interesting and unusual Australian woman and she travels the world doing research and finding clues. I have to say I was worried that this book would trail off into some sort of romance or other pat historical wrap-up but the ending of the book actually caused me to enjoy the build-up to the ending that much more.

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.

A People’s History of Heaven

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

The Peripheral

Gibson’s stories have an eerie calm about them even if he’s talking about some rather complex topics like time travel and the impending economic disaster that is maybe about the happen. This is a very Gibson-like story that spans two time periods and the intertwingling between them. Lots of good female characters. LGBT characters like it’s no big deal. Lots of good internet-style jokes and turns of phrase. Reading his books makes you realize just how much most of the books I read do not really speak to me the way Gibson’s books do. I read this over the past week and I am sorry it’s over.

Persepolis Rising

First book in this series where I am like “Wow this is really going to wrap up, isn’t it?” Our heroes are older, creaky and having some attitude issues that come along with those things. And a dictator is coming to power... maybe. There’s a lot going on and for the first time our folks don’t all wind up in the same place. If you like the first six books, you will also like this one.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Friends could not believe I had never read this. I finally lay down one chilly evening and plowed through it. Super fun! Wordplay and great illustrations and a neat little story about how not to be bored. Super enjoyable, sort of glad I waited so long.

The Pharoah Key

Normally I don’t mind these slightly formulaic thriller type books and I sort of enjoyed the Relic series from Preston and Childs but this one was just... trite. Too much weird drama, not enough weird artifacts, a LOT of implausibility and at the end of it I didn’t feel like I’d learned anything. Not horrible and not nightmare inducing but just... eh.

The Piano Tuner

A booksale find, and apparently New York Times bestseller, this book takes place in 19th century Burma under colonial rule. A crazy but brilliant British military man has a piano delivered into the jungle. That’s not the main purpose of this book, however. Next it goes out of tune and a paino tuner is called for. The piano tuner is an unassuming man who hasn’t spent much of any time abroad and after lenghty travel time arrives at the remote camp and is quickly enchanted. If you’re familiar with this sort of story, you’ll know how it ends. If you’re familiar with the colonialist themes you’ll know that there’s a hot Burmese woman who the protagonist is confused by a whole lot of confusion generally. The writing is great, the plot is a little predictable and I learned a whole lot more about pianos.

The Pixel Eye

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

Plague Land

Continuing in the human misery trend. This is a novel about a mystery that takes place right after the plague came through Europe. I know that the 14th Century was probably a truly terrible time to be alive in a lot of ways but even so, no one in this book is happy. Every single person is miserable most of the time. Everything smells. People are sick and gross looking and treat each other horribly. I appreciated this book a lot as an attempt to be a faithful period piece, but really would have enjoyed it more if there had been ups and downs and not just one long trudge through these people’s unhappy lives.

Planetfall

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

Point and Shoot

The last in the series. This one is in space! The whole thing is just a crazy romp and you have to be willing to watch people get really violently injured a lot but for some reason I was interested enough in the characters and what was going on plotwise that I found these books worth it.

Points North: Stories

This is a collection of Mosher stories finished a few months before his death. And with that context, there’s a certain extra poignancy in the wrapping up of some of the tales from Kingdom County that Mosher readers have come to expect. A few deaths, a few beginnings. Super readable but at the end of it, when you’re wanting more, like many of Mosher’s work, you know that there won’t be any more.

Portrait of a Spy

One of the more tradecraft-y books in this series. Allon has to get an heiress whose father he assassinated in front of her to become a partner in his plan to dismantle a terrorist organization. Some of it takes place in Dubai, which held my interest. Otherwise it was a good late night book but not super memorable.

The Poser

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

The President’s Shadow

Have enjoyed other Meltzer thrillers and needed a palate cleanser after those awful Gross books. This was good. Intrigue at the White House. Opposing secret orders. Mystery men and an island where secret experiments were carried out. This one was a little more grim than some of the others. I get the feeling that Meltzer feels he needs to up the ante of what is happening to keep people interested. I’m not so sure I agree but I did like this book and it left us with enough questions that I’m sure another is in the works.

Presumption of Guilt

October is when the Mayor books come out. This one has a character form an older book, the Tag Man, as well as a good regular old “What is going on?” story. Mayor’s gotten a bit predictable to me but I don’t mean that in any way negatively, I just find his characters sort of reassuring. No big major surprises here (no one dies, no marriages get wrecked) and that was a pleasant aspect to this.

Pretty Monsters

This was the best book I’ve read on a plane in quite some time. Link has a handle on making stories mostly real but just a little unreal in a way that makes them compelling and just a little freaky. It ends on sort of a weird note which was my only little irritation in an otherwise terrific collection. She is great at dark slightly foreboding stories and she’s clearly so masterful at writing stories that she can now mess around with the form with great results. Even though this is technically a YA novel it’s good reading for people of any age.

Prey

I like Crichton fine, even though I dislike his politics. I skipped Jurassic Park and Disclosure because I had already seen them ruined by Hollywood, but in general he’s a capable storyteller and a smart man. This was one of those stories where something secret is going on at a remote lab in the middle of the desert that has the potential to ruin life as we know it. It reminded me a lot of Greg Bear’s Blood Music except without the truly terrible outcome. Lots of nanotechnology that you know Crichton did some background research on, and a lot of twists and turns on the way to figuring out what the heck is really happening. This book held my interest without keeping me up at night.

The Price of Malice

One of the more icky stories but one that was more local to Brattleboro of a creepy supposed child molester that was found very seriously killed. Good story overall and I kept singing “A town called malice...” to myself as I’d read it.

Prince of Fire

These books are good in the wintertime. This one gets away from the Holocaust theme though there is a lot of stuff about Palestine and Israel which is fine and actually fairly interesting. I notice some more subtlety from Silva this time around, some playful language and interesting turns pf phrase which I appreciated.

The Prince of Risk

Another headcold novel. This one was a pretty good mystery/thriller about an international espionage/terrorist plot mystery thing. Reich has a lot of high powered characters who get out of more scrapes than you could imagine they could get into. This one zips along, has a satisfying conclusion and I enjoyed it.

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.

Proof Positive

Got this right when it came out from the library by getting on the hold list early. Enjoyed it. Good to see the familiar characters again. The story was a little pat in the ending but otherwise pretty nifty. A side-trip to Philly and a little more progression with Gunther’s relationship with Beverly. Enjoyable but maybe not in my top three.

The Property

I loved this rich story by Modan about a Jewish grandma and her granddaughter taking a trip to Poland to find out about The Property, a building that had belonged to the family before the war and lost afterwards. The story is beautifully told and has a lot going on that works at many levels (for example, three languages are spoken and this is handled by them being written using different cases). You get to understand some of the human sides of what was going on in Poland that wasn’t just Nazis and war crimes. Lovely book.

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.

The Psychology of Time Travel

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

Pumpkinheads

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

The Purple Land

I don’t even know why I had this book and I’m not sure why I continued to read it even as I stopped really enjoying it. It’s sort of a fascinating road/trail book from the 1880s about a snotty Englishman who is in Uruguay. He meets a lot of people and has a lot of adventures. And he’s sort of insufferable. This book has a few interesting prefaces and many neat original woodcuts but I really should have cut and run earlier on this, there was no clear ending and I think maybe I was hoping there would be one.

Q & A

For whatever reason I picked up this book thinking it was non-fiction. It’s the original book that became the really popular movie (that I also haven’t seen) Slumdog Millionaire. It’s tough going. Living in the slums is a really rough life with a lot of abuse and random terrible things happening. The narrative structure here is a kid from the slums who manages to get on the quiz show Who Wants to be a Billionaire

Quantico

[review pending]

Quantico

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 Quantum Thief

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

Queen of Angels

It took me a hundred pages of this book for me to be certain I hadn’t read it before. It has the same transform policewoman that another of Bear’s books has and another crime that has to do, loosely, with therapied vs. untherapied people in a future where that sort of thing matters. I’m glad I stuck with it, even though the beginning is sort of a slog. It covers several stories at once including one sub-theme that has to do with the role of a thinker -- a computer brain type character -- whose text is all written as if it were appearing on a dumb terminal in front of you. A little tough to read early on, but the stories all come together in a really neat way and Bear’s imagination and ideas about future scenarios are excellently evident in this novel.

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.

R is for Ricochet

[review pending]

The Rabbi Who Prayed with Fire

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.

Rabbits

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.

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance.

This is a fun book imagining what combination of things might lead up to a Vermont secession movement and looking at one way that could go. It’s all about the events leading up to Town Meeting Day and doesn’t actually get into the nitty gritty of how to secede which is just fine with me. This book is the first fiction book I’ve read by McKibben (after finishing his wife Sue Halpern’s book Summer Hours at The Robbers Library last year) and it’s got a great mix of action and humor and a LOT of Vermont name-dropping and inside jokes that I think anyone who has lived in the Green Mountain State would enjoy.

Ragman’s Memory

Continuing to plow through these. This was a better storyline than the last one. A real weird “What is going on here?” situation where you think it’s the one bad guy and it turns out to be another one. I’m sort of getting used to Mayor’s rhythm lately, how you are pretty sure one person is getting set up to be the bad guy but there is often multiple layers of bad guys in there. Anyhow, another good local mystery, quite enjoyable.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

A very nice book where not much happens but it;s about small towns and books and reading and so I liked it. A good book for recovering from a toothache or when you’ve maybe had too much of the yammering nonsense out there. Formulaic? Sure. But sometimes that’s what you want out of a book.

Ready Player Two

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

Reap3r

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.

Reckless

This is either the third or the fourth book in the Ty Hauck series of thrillers. I enjoyed this one as much or more than the previous ones. Lots of back and forth about what is really happening, a principled main character (though he does seem to sort of run through relationships which is maybe getting old) and a lot of intrigue without a lot of torture or other super unpleasantness, though there is a somewhat high body count.

Record of a Spaceborn Few

This book wraps up the Wayfarer trilogy (I think?) and was a good look at “What about the humans in this galaxy anyhow?” question I’d had since the beginning. Other than killing off of one character (unexpected!) and that “every chapter written by a different character and then repeat” thing (never my favorite) I really enjoyed this. More human stories. A lot of people with complicated but mostly-good motivations trying to figure out what to do. I liked all the characters. After a stream of good but difficult books, it was nice to relax with a familiar comfortable world.

Recursion

I know there are sci fi books that are more complicated than this one, but this one hits about the edge of my complexity-meter where it’s worth trying to puzzle it out, but not so hard that I feel stupid and confused all the time. Like his last book, Crouch is taking on themes of multiple timelines. In this case a person building a device that allows you to... sort of... go back in time. Intended as a device to help her mother avoid the terrible downsides of Alzheimers, it instead turns into a whole bunch of new terriblenesses and is deals with the implications of all the other people whose timelines are affected, and who aren’t quite sure what is happening. Interesting to read and the main characters are likeable and make human decisions, errors and choices.

Red Herring

One of the more interesting complex mysteries in the Joe Gunther series. Some fun and interesting forensic stuff and a lot of deceptive clues. A few twists at the end (and a main character killed) made this a bit of a tough read in some ways but a lot more clever than some of the other recent ones.

Red Mars

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.

Red Moon

I like how Robinson can write stories with science angles that aren’t all nitpicky details about made-up machines and actually looks at human relationships as part of these systems. He’s hit or miss with me sometimes, but this one was terrific. A lot of palace intrigue type stuff but a heroine who is female and pregnant and not menaced which was itself a grand achievement.

Redshirts

Really enjoyed this sort of meta look at the disposable ensigns and the like who always seem to eat it in sci fi shows (most notably Star Trek where they are often wearing a red shirt). Scalzi takes this idea and really explores it. What’s it like to be one of these people? How could you fix this situation if you found that you were inside of it? Why are some of these shows so poorly written? Serious fans of Star Trek will enjoy this even more than the casual reader, but I enjoyed both the story and the little chunk of “codas” at the end of it which gave a few more little vignette’s that fleshed out the overall theme.

Relic

a slightly formulaic horror story that nonetheless I enjoyed because it let me nose around in the back hallways and basements of the Natural History Museum.

Reliquary

Better than the one before it, this sequel to Relic had more interesting stuff about subterranean subway dwellers and less weird gory murdering (though there is plenty of that).

The Rembrandt Affair

Motoring through these. I liked this book which was a little more art-y and a little less torture-y and talked a bit about what happened to the possessions of the Jews after the Holocaust

The Resistance Man

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

The Revealers

Doug Wilhelm is a local YA author who I used to see in my library all the time. This book has gotten a lot of press because it deals with a hot teen topic: bullying. I haven’t read much of the rest of the books about bullying, so I don’t know how this one compares, but I will say that it was a lively book with some nerdy but redeeming bullying victims and some atrocious but redeeming bullies. The kids who are being tormented group together and find a good solution to dealing with bullies and we learn, as we often do, that a lot of bullies are just people who want to be respected, or understood, or have terrible home lives that they are grappling with. Wilhelm doesn’t serve it all on a platter, some interpretation is left to the reader. This story also has a technological angle where the kids use the local LAN server to chat about tactics and other things. The chat sessions are reprinted verbatim which I guess lends some sort of technorealism to the story, but the transcripts ring false to me -- too many full sentences, too little chatspeak, but that’s a minor quibble. The story doesn’t read like an After-School Special, no one is perfect and even the good guys have their flaws and Achilles heels. The descriptions of the kids in school and their adult teachers and parents ring true without, again, being moralistic about responsibility or behavior. One kid smokes. One adult is a jerk. Some teachers aren’t helpful, you know just like real life.

River Notes: The Dance of the Herons

This book hit me right in the feels. A bunch of short little stories that read more like poetry about humans and their relationship to nature, the natural world, and rivers in specific. A very Pacific Northwest feeling book and it made me miss my days in Seattle and want to read a lot more of what Lopez has written.

The Road to Wellville

[review pending]

Roadside Picnic

A great story, translated from the Russian, about life on Earth after the aliens have come and gone and left some of their weird technology behind them. The visitation sites, six in all, become a fascination for scientists and stalkers (people who creep into the visitation areas and take things to sell) and the interrelationship between these two groups is what drives the story forward.

Robogenesis

Thrillers are tough because you spend all your time watching over the various characters thinking “Man I hope those guys are okay” and looking at the bad guys and thinking “I hope they get what is coming to them” and at the end you either know or things are set up for a sequel. You sort of knew in the last book that things were set up for a sequel. This book was not as good at the first. Less character development. More fucking people over. More tedious battle scenes. A lot of suffering by people who had suffered a lot in the previous book. I didn’t dislike it, enjoyed reading it actually, but it seemed more like torture porn and less like a narrative novel. I may not be as quick to pick up the sequel to this one, which I am sure is forthcoming.

Robopocalypse

AI takes over the world! This is the retrospective look at how the humans won. It gets a little battlefield-y at times but this is a clever way to tell a story, by looking back at the important bits of what happened and tying them all together.

Rogue Protocol

More Murderbot! I think what had really been missing from my scifi reading lately was sarcasm and just wit generally. Everything was so serious, all these little colonies, hoping people will live, watching as things tear them apart. This and that giant war fighting conflict blabity bla. These stories are short and, in an odd way, simple. There is a main character who you know and, if you are me, identify with, and they have adventures where things don’t go as planned. And then they end. And a new adventure starts in the next book. There’s something really calming about these stories. They are a little low affect which suits me fine. It’s a little weird to talk about how you identify with a Murderbot but hey, I like these books.

The Rook

This book was recommended by someone who liked other books that I’d liked, so I opened it not knowing much about it other than that. It’s great. It has one of those Orphan Black openings: character doesn’t quite know what’s going on but SOMETHING is definitely going on... and then she starts to figure out what. One of the things I like about this book is that the main character, and many of the other characters, are female. Not in one of those “Oooh check out the women being all interesting” but just, they are characters, who act like women, and are important players in this story. The book passes the Bechdel test, heartily, which is something that I don’t expect anymore in any non-specifically-feminist books. So, yes, it’s got a rousing plot, zips around a lot. Has just enough supernatural to be interesting but not so much that you feel that he author writes himself out of every difficult episode with “And then a monster appears” Was happy to hear that there’s a sequel in the works. I came late to this editions, so I won’t have long to wait.

Rosewater

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.

Rosewater Insurrection

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.

Rosewater Redemption

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.

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.

A Rule Against Murder

A fun addition to this set of cop mysteries. This one takes place at a remote resort and involves the larger family of one of the usual Three Pines people. Penny really gets to go to town with her rich descriptions by talking about the routines and food and trappings of this high class lodge. Enjoyable but with a lot of awful people.

The Rules for Hearts

My friend Sara wrote this book. I rad an early draft wich had nothing at all to do with this book. I read it all in one sitting on the plane on the way home. It’s an interesting noval following the non-main character from her last book Empress of the World. I have to say two things about this book besides that I liked it. One: I was, like many of the other reviewers, a little bummed that the main likable character from the first book didn’t show up in this one and that the relationship had sort of fizzled in to not much. I’m sure it’s realistic, but I don’t like the main character of this book as much. It just means I’ll have to wait to see if she reappears in a later book. Two: when I first read that there was going to be some sort of play as a central part of this book, my immediate thought was “Oh shit, not a bunch of heavy-drama drama people...” and actually that fear was unfounded. Sara has, as usual, created a bunch of interesting and fairly complex characters that are fun to follow around for a summer.

Rules of Deception

A good Switzerland-based spy thriller with enough technology and crossing and double-crossing to stay lively until the end. I enjoyed this better than Reichs other book that I read.

The Runner and the Keeper-Of-Song

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

The 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

Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry

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.

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.

Saving the World

Such mixed feelings about this. I am not great at reading books where there are alternate chapters with two different stories. In this case there was one “here and now” story about a woman in Vermont managing with her depression and life in a small town. In the other, the subject of her next book, a real life tale of a woman who goes abroad to help spread the smallpox vaccine in the “new world” in the very early 1800s. Both neat stories, their intermingling was a little difficult and, near the mid-end of the book, one of the characters you’ve grown to like gets killed in a senseless way which was a startling plot device. Want to read more about the smallpox story Not totally sure how I feel about picking up other books by Alvarez.

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 Scorpion’s Head

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.

Sea of Tranquility

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.

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 Seas

Another moody seaside story, this one with a young unreliable narrator which makes you question what is really going on. I enjoyed this a lot, though enjoyed maybe isn’t even the right word. I liked the sense of place even though we could be in Maine or in Halifax by the descriptions. A lot of mermaid talk, weird families, small isolating towns and maybe some mental illness tossed in. Good that this book was short, it might have been tougher to take had it been longer.

The Second Chair

I’m starting to get into the rhythm of these books. Someone is accused of a crime, the usual characters interact in new ways, something unforseen happens and the person who actually did it turns out to be who you least suspect. Of course, knowing that it’s going to be who you least suspect makes it easier to figure out who that might be. As a legal/cop mystery series, I like these books but I definitely enjoyed the first few I read slightly more than the later ones only because once the pattern is established the details seem less important. Lescroart does create likable characters and the whole idea of an ensemble cast for these types of books really works well for his settings and plots.

The Second Mouse

Yay, the folks are back in Vermont and interacting with each other in Vermont-y ways. I liked this one more than some of the other recent ones. Less Zigman, more Sammy and Kunkel. Gunther gets laid. We visit some tiny Vermont towns and a lot of weird loose end seeming things resolve. I liked this.

Second Wind

I’ve been really dragging on reading lately so I decided to read something I hadn’t read from an author I generally like. This was a good Dick Francis book because it wasn’t all about horses. I know that’s his thing but this one had more to do wtih meteorology and a few small Carribean Islands. It’s been a while since I picked up his stuff and I found this book interesting, a quick read and mysterious enough to keep me interested even with the brain fog that is the super short days here in New England.

The Secret Place

Unlike French’s other book, this one was long and the descriptions seemed interesting and useful not just long “what the hell is going on” types of writing. I liked this mystery that has one of the characters from her earlier book now as a nearly-grown teenager at a private school where a murder happened. There’s a lot of whodunit stuff but it’s all mostly secondary to the actual plot which is about teenaged friendships and the general nostalgia for youth thing that French seemed to be trying to get at in her Broken Harbor novel but didn’t quite manage. I read these two books long after the first three so I didn’t relate to the cop buddy angle of the story (couldn’t keep straight who was who from before) but there is a lot of nice personal-friend dynamics to be explored there as well.

The Secret Servant

I have to admit, these books blur together for me a little bit. This one is more of a kidnaping story with the same ending where they sort of blow the main thing they are supposed to do and then Allon goes in and bats cleanup to “finish the job” This book could have taken a really dark turn and I am sort of happy it didn’t.

The Secrets Between Us

I guess this was a sequel to another book and I think I came out ahead because by all accounts that book was a lot more difficult and challenging than this one. And I won’t lie, this one was pretty tough. A lot of extreme poverty in India of the sort I can only sort of wrap my head around. And, through it all, two women of varying class levels who find each other and help each other out all the while remaining guarded about some of the stuff in their lives. Really liked it. Was tough to take in places but always in service to the plot, did not feel gratuitous. And after a few evenings books that were a lot of space war stuff, it was nice to come back to earth.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

This was a funny book and I’m not sure where I got it. A sort of illustrated journey by a child prodigy who winds up making an epic cross-country train journey to wind up at the Smithsonian in DC. He has a weird relationship with his family and sort of interacts with the world oddly. There’s a hint of the supernatural in here but not much. I read a review of this as I was reading it (I usually don’t) and people seemed to HATE the ending but I sort of liked it. Not a lot goes on in this book and there are a TON of little side notes and particularly illustrations. If this is your bag, this book has a lot of it, and it’s well-done. If you don’t care for that sort of thing, this is not the book for you.

Semiosis

I was glad to see that this was part of a series because it ended somewhat abruptly. Usually I get confused and irritated by multiple perspectives in a book, especially scifi for some reason but it works here. This is a story told over multiple generations of the people who settled Pax after the Earth had become unlivable. I liked getting to sort of read along as the settlers discuovered what worked and what didn’t, and how that played out over multiple (seven?) generations. Also there are some sentient plants, and some existing settlers.

Seveneves

Took me a long time to finish this book both because it is really super long (it’s like three or four different narrative arcs in one which is NOT BAD) but also because I liked it and didn’t want it to end. It’s a complicated story of something bad happening (moon explodes, who knows why) and then humans have to get off of earth in a hurry (two years) and how that all works. Cut ahead 5000 years and we look at how things turned out. Both parts of the book are interesting, the space stuff which is meticulously explained (which sort of explains why the book is so long) is a little more credible-feeling than some of the race theory stuff later on in the book and “just so” explanations for why the new society does and doesn’t have certain kinds of technology. A great and well-recommended read.

Severance Package

Another book that came highly recommended by Ask MetaFilter. I enjoyed his book The Blonde and this has one funny crossover with that book (one same security guard, otherwise all new characters except it also takes place in Philly) and is the same sort of non-stop “what the hell is happening?” romp. Probably a bit too violent for me but I should have figured that out from the teasers about the book. The major plot: there is a Saturday meeting at the office for eight people. The boss announces that people can voluntarily kill themselves or he will kill them. No one is getting out alive. And then ... chaos! Well done, some interesting illustrations. Enjoyable book but a tough one to read late at night.

The Shadow Land

I loved The Historian. I never would have picked up this book if I had knows that it had a lengthy multi-chapter explicit concentration camp narrative in the middle of it. The story is otherwise interesting though nowhere near as compelling as The Historian. Kostova reveals in the afterword that this book is more autobiographical which may have something to do with why there are many parts of it that would be interesting-if-true but also make bad fiction. I felt assaulted by the lengthy descriptions of what amounted to torture in the prison camps. I am aware this is true to life and do not want to diminish the suffering of people who were there, but those sort of witness stories are a very specific sort of narrative that I usually avoid. I found myself frequently frustrated reading this book with both the excessive “What I saw when I looked around the town square” sorts of things, the anxious and not-super-compelling main character and the sequence of events that only becomes plausible when you realize how the story ends (an ending that was surprisingly predictable). I don’t mean to be a weird internet person about this, I really like most books but this one was a frustrating read though i did finish it. Not for people who want to avoid torture narratives.

Shaman

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.

The Shape-shifters Guide to Time Travel

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

Shift

A prequel to the really good novel of people-living-in-silos which was Wool. I liked getting to know how something like this could have happened and getting to know some of the more minor players from the other book. Happy to note that there is yet another book that I can go read in this series. Hoping it’s good.

Ship Fever

Someone suggested that if I like Geraldine Brooks I might also like this. It was great! A combination of historical fiction--a genre I thought I didn’t like--and weird science/medicine topics. The title story, saved til last, is a harrowing account of the quarantine at Grosse Isle for the Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. Enough human interest to be interesting. Enough medical detail to pique one’s interest in the whole topic. And through it all, it’s quite well written and offers a peek into the possible lives of long-dead scientists as well as some nice gender balance which I often find wanting in these sorts of books.

Shipwrecks

Captivating story of shore dwellers in medieval Japan who rely on the surplus from shipwrecks to keep from starving to death. It’s so gritty, everything matters so much, from learning to fish to how the weather is that year. The villagers are alternately incredibly hard working and also superstitious. As you get drawn more into the story you realize that things are even a little grimmer than you even thought. And it’s all told through the eyes of a 9-11 year old boy. A tough tale but a great story.

Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

This is an adaptation of Jackson’s original short story by her grandson, a graphic novelist with his own reputation and style. I liked his intro where he talked about what little he remembered about Jackson and what he was told about her by his family. I liked the stark adaptation since it seemed so familiar. After reading reviews, it was interesting to me that one of the main critiques was that this is nominally a story that resonates with people of all ages and yet this particular version, since it’s illustrated and includes a bathtub scene and some frontal nudity, can’t easily be used in schools. Which made me think all over about what is an isn’t allowed within societies and if maybe that was part of Hyman’s point.

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.

Shovel Ready: A Novel

Another recommended book from the pile. This was also a zipzip read. The premise: a dirty bomb goes off in Times Square and the only people left in NYC are 1. scavengers and bottom dwellers 2. rich people jacked in to a sort of do-anything immersible internet Unclear why those people don’t leave. A lot of questions actually but the story concerns one former garbageman who lost his wife in the blast and and has become a bit of a bottom dweller hired killer man. He’s the protagonist. A lot goes on. It’s borderline “too rapey” for me (even though it’s not very rapey) but I enjoyed it. Very much like Odds Against Tomorrow in some weird way. The vision these guys have of the future is just a little too creepy for me.

Shutter Island

If I had known how this book was going to wrap up, I never would have spent time reading it.

Side Life

Really enjoyed this weird look at a tech guy who finds a way to interact with multiple simultaneous realities. For a while I was worried it would be one of those “Hey you started out in the present time but now you’re back in history experiencing WWII” but it was not that. At the center of this book is a vaguely likeable character who has a lot of weird things happen to him, His life veers from satisfactory to really bad and it’s hard to tell how much agency he has in the whole thing. There’s a lot of “What is really real” conversations that are not terrible. There’s a little bit of “Woo multiverse” conversations that are a little more difficult. I am not a person who really enjoys books with multiple timelines and, that said, this would usually not be a book I’d pick up, but there was enough interesting stuff going on in it that I am glad that I did.

Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical

A friend handed this to me as I was preparing to take a long train trip and I read it in fits and starts. It’s a YA collection of freak show fiction, stories specifically about sideshows and circuses and that sort of thing. A few of the stories have no circus on them at all but some other odd or mysterious event. A few of the stories are in illustrated graphic format. Many of them stick with you. It’s a book for teens so it’s not too freakish and is more of a sideshow-starter volume, but worth picking up if you thing Geek Love may be a little too mature for your freak-fascinated teen.

Silent in the Grave

Found this book acidentally when I was searching for something to read on the long flight home from Anchorage. Liked the cover, took the book home. And I liked it! It’s the first in a series of ... I’m not even sure what the type of book is. They’re vaguely Victorian mysteries, only with a tenacious and interesting female lead character and her vaguely mysterious part-Gypsy (guy who winds up being) partner. As themey mysteries were, I liked this one a lot and would pick up the next in the series if I found it.

Silent in the Sanctuary

Somehow I read this and forgot to write it down. It was good. I just got the third one and was trying to figure out if I’d already read it. This is a placeholder for the second book which I read sometime last year.

Silent on the Moor

This is the last in a trilogy of pretty interesting Victorian-era mysteries. The covers make them look a bit like bodice-rippers but they’re really pretty tame as far as that sort of thing goes. I enjoyed the period attention to costumes and locations and the endless analysis of what and what wasn’t “proper” for the times as well as the strong female leads. The stories both wrap up tidily and also leave room for more exploration of the characters so readers can feel a sense of closure but also look forward to more books.

Sing, Unburied Sing

I did not know, when I pulled this book out of the Little Free Library by the beach, that it was almost unendingly violent and upsetting in some of the most disturbing ways (child abuse, sadistic rapes, prison violence, a mom’s long painful death from cancer). I am sure it’s a great book but I could not get around that and was completely upset the entire time I was reading it just hoping there was some redemption or peace for the characters. There was, a little.

The Sinnner

The dead naked woman splayed across the cover of this book kept me away from it for a while. I enjoy the medical part of Gerritsen’s medical mysteries but she sometimes crosses the line into too gross and too gory for me. So, I thought that this story about a mudered nun might be icky. And it was, a little. However, it was also a very subtle and engaging whodunit including two strong female characters dealing with their own personal issues as well as the complicated issues of this case. It had more depth and less timeworn mystery cliches than some of her other books and the interplay of characters -- most of whom are interesting, even the minor players -- meant that it was an engaging read from start to finish.

The Skeleton’s Knee

While it’s not doing anything for my “read more non-whitemale authors” push I’ve decided to work my way sequentially through Archer Mayor’s police procedurals after picking up and enjoying one of the more recent Joe Gunther books. So this book is #4 on the list and I have maybe 18 more, though I suspect I’d read some of them before I started keeping track (which means over 17 years ago, which may be mathematically impossible). I enjoyed it. It had a lot of weird forensic work when a skeleton dug up in the dooryard of a hermit turns out to have an artificial knee. Lots of running around and a side trip to Chicago and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The book felt like it wrapped up a little quickly and I was expecting a bit more in the way of “So this is how all the things were interrelated” instead of making some of those connections myself. Still, Gunther is likeable and it’s neat to watch his motley group of friends and enemies evolve over time.

Skinner

Yet another slightly dystopic future book, this one without any scifi element. Basic conceit: man raised in Skinner Box (and removed from his home at the age of 12) becomes an eerily good “protection” guy and helps spies stay safe. There’s a big bunch of turmoil, he meets some odd characters, they go romping around the world. I liked the people in this book, the wide array of non-neurotypicals, and even though it was violent it didn’t seem )mostly) sadistic. I will pick up other books by Huston.

Slant

In 1997, the world of “it’s all online” was even futher away than it is now, and Greg Bear did a pretty good job anticipating a lot of it. This story takes place in a future where the US is fractured into many different political regions and the unifying theme for people is their consumption of data feeds called Yox. These are sort of lowest-common-denominator geared entertainment streams or feeds that people on welfare can just barely afford. Through all this something nefarious is happening. People who received therapy -- which itself happens through the addition of internal nanotech that keeps things balanced -- are finding it failing, chaos is sneaking in, things are falling apart. This book follows a set of disparate characters who all play small roles until the big brouhaha at the end of it.

Readers who enjoy Bear will like this, there’s lots of fun science and verbatim quotes from the Yox while ring errily true to how a lot of Internet stuff seems to be going. On the downside, there is no central character and I spent a lot of time in the book keeping track of what seemed to me to be three or four separate stories. All of these stories were fine, none of them was so compelling that I was dying to know what happened next which is how I often feel when reading Bear’s books. This was a lot of balls to keep in the air at once and while I liked all the characters somewhat, I didn’t like any of them enough to really care and worry about what happened to them. As a result, the final scenes where they all come together were a little disjointed and cluttered with a bunch of characters I felt like I barely knew. It’s just a small kvetch though, overall I enjoyed Bear’s new world

Sleepwalk

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.

Small Steps

A follow-up from the author of Holes. Armpit, the protagonist is back living at home with his parents and trying to get by as a teen with a record. I had thought I rememberred him coming into some money or fame at the end of Holes but it clearly didn’t follow him back to Summer school and back home. Armpit is still a sort of hard luck guy with an okay job doing some summer classes. His main companion is a ten year old neighbor girl who has cerebal palsy. People are not particularly nice to him and he has a hard time figuring out other people. His friend from the work camp elists him in a scheme to resell tickets to a pop star’s rock concert. The pop star is her own character in the story, isolated and lonely as her parents manage her career and misuse her money. It’s another wacky caper book, sort of, not as full of violence as the last one, but still having a lot of little side stories all of which wrap up neatly at the end.

Snapdragon

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

Snapper

This is one of those just-barely fiction titles where the protagonist is basically someone with many of the same characteristics as the author. I spent a lot of the time I was reading this book thinking “Well that would have been amusing in real life but it doesn’t make a particularly good story” I’m a bird lover and sometimes watcher and the bird-y parts of this book were the best parts. The worst parts were when the somewhat loserish- main character is mooning over a woman who sleeps with him but doesn’t want to be in a grown up relationship with him. He finally has to move to Vermont to get away from her and that seems to make all the difference. Liked it okay, didn’t love it, would maybe like to read this guy’s actual biography instead of a fictionalized account of his life.

The Sniper’s Wife

This was a departure from the usual Mayor books because it takes place to a large extent in NYC. There’s still Gunther and Sammy and Kunkle but the topic is the death of Kunkle’s ex-wife under slightly odd circumstances and everyone goes to NYC at various times to figure it out. There’s some interesting juxtaposition between NYC cops and VT cops but ultimately the thing I like about Mayor’s books is the Vermont settings and the ins and outs of all the interagency stuff and this didn’t have it for me. Good cop procedural but not really what I wanted to read.

Solaris

Even though this book was written in 1961, the English translation didn’t show up until the seventies. It got major distribution in the eighties and was finally made into a “major motion picture” last year. The cover of my book has George Clooney on it, guh.

I haven’t read any Lem since college when I read many of the books in his Pirx the Pilot series. Each of these involved a sort of everyman space traveller and the strange worlds he would encounter. It was more like Calvino than Star Trek, this spaceman was no conqueror. This book seems like a more fleshed out version of one of those stories: an astronaut/scientist comes to a space station to continue some research on a planet that consists almost entirely of a sentient ocean being and finds that things have gone wrong. Really wrong.

Lem can be vague to the point of sometimes beign obscure and I always feel a little dumb reading his books as if I were supposed to infer more about the plot than I actually did. This does tend to up the creep factor of his books a lot, since you never quite know what is happening, you also have no way of knowing what is going to happen next. In this book I also felt that I did not know quite what had happened when I got to the last page, so I put it down feeling a little confused. Lem is sci fo for people who love literature. Skip the movie and read the book.

Someday the Rabbi Will Leave

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.

Soon I will Be Invincible

Was looking for some good fiction to read and had just finished Ready Player One and this was in the thrift store bargain shelf and my friend the librarian said I’d like it. She was totally right. General premise: superheroes are just like us and super villains are as well. They have hopes and reams and make mistakes and whatnot. This book is about a superhero and a supervillain (in alternating first person chapters) and a few months of their back and forth as the villain tries to take over the world. Very good read, went by quickly, lots of good laughs and callbacks to various superhero stories of your childhood.

Sourdough

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.

The Space Between the Stars

I am a sucker for space exploration books, especially post-apocalyptic ones. Even moreso “Something is wrong with the earth and we have to go elsewhere” narratives. This book was, at its core, about a woman and her relationships to other people, particularly her family and herself. The space stuff is a bit of background scene setting but I think this worked out fairly well. Would have liked to have read more about the weird caste system and some of the pre-history to this novel, but I enjoyed this for what it is as well.

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.

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.

The Spin

I read this at the same time I read another book which was different but similar. I had the feeling that the second book was “better” but I enjoyed this book more. More human relationships and a lot more thinking about what really WOULD happen if the end of the world were... sort of ... maybe ... telegraphed into the future. Worth thinking about. Never gets too gory. Enjoyable.

Spook Country

I was really excited that here was a Gibson book I hadn’t read yet. I enjoy all of his novels. I like the austere settings, the interesting female characters and the semi-scifi aspect of them. This was had all of that, set against a post-9/11 world where massive amounts of time and energy are spent on subterfuge and undoing subterfuge. As with most Gobsin books, it’s a little tough to tell exactly what’s going on and how all the pieces fit together but it’s not confusing or maddening and you can relax and get caught up in the characters and settings.

Spoonbenders

I got an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley. It seems like Gregory and I saw the same James Randi documentary, possibly, because there are some debunking stories in here that seem like they are right form there. Or maybe it’s just that he’s interested in the same things I am. I haven’t read any of his other stuff but enjoyed this story of three generations of maybe-psychics trying to deal with life around them.

St. Albans Fire

Another totally good book by Mayor that takes place partly out of the state, this time in Newark NJ of all places. A good mystery, not as much State-of-Vermont stuff in it (or the other people besides Kunkle who I am getting a little tired of) and an ominous portent of the end of the relationship between Gunther and Zigman which might be just fine.

St. Clair’s Blues

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

Starfish

Picked up this book without knowing anything about it because it was a prequel to a book I’d already started reading. Now that I’m learning about this book in order to write this entry it turns out there’s also a sequel to the book after this. This is great news. I really enjoyed this set of weird dystopic near future novels a big chunk of which takes place on the ocean floor.

The Starless Sea

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

State of Terror

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.

Still Life

Was nice to get back to reading some simple mysteries. This one is the first in a series featuring the eclair-loving Inspector Gamache. This one concerns a small town in Quebec and the interpersonal politics in the tiny community there. Enjoyed it very much even considering it was handed too me by friends who couldn’t finish it. I’ll dig in to the rest of the series.

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

No idea where I get some of these books. This is a great collection of super short stories, most with no named protagonist. They’re magically realistic but not in that usual “then an angel appears” way but more like “here is an octopus, he lives in an apartment” sort of way. I really enjoyed the voice and the tone of these stories, plus the way many of them spoke of the sea.

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.

A Stranger in the Kingdom

I had read Mosher’s more recent book On Kingdom Mountain recently and really fell on love with the Vermonter vibe and the family of people and their neighbors who lived in the Northeast section of Vermont. As someone who, while maybe not a Vermonter, at least lives here, it’s fun to be able to notice neat little geographic locations and think “oh hey, I know where that is!” This story takes place in the 1950s whereas the one I read later actually takes place earlier. I recognized the location but sometimes had a hard time lining up the characters from one book to the next.

This book takes on the sticky topic of racism when a black preacher comes to town and a town normally pretty well unified -- except for the rift within the church -- splits up over a crime that happens within the town that some think implicates the new preacher. Mosher draws a lot of different characters with a lot of differing motivations and perspectives and all of this set against the lovely Vermont background and the aditional themes of baseball and old-time newspaper journalism made this a wonderful and rich read.

Strong Motion

Oh Jonathan Franzen, I wish you could have told me that as I was reading this book, my own relationship was slowly falling apart. You seem to have such a good knack for describing dysfunction and yet I wound up burying myself in your own version of it and using it to obliquely communicate with my soon-to-be-ex boyfriend who was already sort of halfway out the door. This is made even more poignant by the fact that your book takes place where my family lives and so it was so familiar, so real life, and yet it was nothing like my life at all, with its semi-happy ending and its ENDING. In any case, I enjoyed this story, I love your characters and I appreciated the chance to get into their heads while I was having trouble understanding what was in my own.

The Subtle Knife

Again, catching up on books I should have read a decade ago. I find these books sort of slow. There are a lot of slow reveals and a lot of “Huh I wonder what THAT is about...” stuff going on. The second book had even less information than the first, though the story was pretty interesting. It did rely on the “main character is hurt and you worry they’re going to die” aspect to it which is one of my not-so-favorite themes, though there was also a favorite theme, that of the lady scientist. In any case, I’m now propelled towards the third book and I only sort of care what happens.

The Sudden Arrival of Violence

I think I would have been pretty bummed out to have to read these books one every year. As it was I got to read the whole Glasgow Trilogy in about a month. Enjoyed it.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library

I am a sucker for any book that takes place in a library. Doubly so when they are written by Vermonters. And so when Ms. Halpern wrote me and said “I’ve written this book, how do I get it into the hands of librarians?” I said “Well send me a copy, for starters.” This doesn’t always go well for me. Many books sent to me languish on my To Read pile for far too long. This one, however, fit right into a reading slot and I picked it up and was instantly hooked. it’s two stories: the story of the librarian’s marriage--she’s not married anymore and you don’t know why--and the story of the 15 year old who has to work in the library doing community service over the summer. There are a host of supporting characters, some more character-ish than others.

The facts are revealed slowly. At first I had a hard time with the librarian character who said she wanted to work in a library because she liked the quiet... but eventually I realized there was more to it than that. As someone who had a cousin who was raised in somewhat similar circumstances to the kid who had to do community service, I found empathy with her off-the-grid family and her ability to evaluate the statements they made about the way to live the good life. Above all that I appreciate that even though there was another librarian-aged male character, this was not a love story, it was a story of many different kinds of friendship, and of small towns, and civics and the way we can hold space for one another’s difficult feelings. I am very happy I read it.

Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home

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.

A Sunlit Weapon

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.

SuperMutant Magic Academy

Liked it. A book by the same author as This One Summer. I was the first person to check it out of my library. It’s a collection of small comics that, combined, tell the story of a school full of mutants who are also teenagers. You learn some things, you wonder about some things, you never figure some things out. Really interesting and well put together.

Supernova Era

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

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.

The Surrogate Thief

Another enjoyable cop-type procedural by Mayor. Liked this one especially because it ventured into Massachusetts where my sister works at the crime lab as well as into Waterbury to Vermont’s crime lab, so I got to see some places I recognized. Fun and interesting book, great ending. Classic Mayor.

The Suspect

[review pending]

Sweetland

Such a poignant story about an island community in Newfoundland that is being resettled and the people who are the last to go. This story is haunting both for the depth of emotions that are on display and also the tinge of magical realism that hovers around everything. A wonderful book.

Swell

This was a thick book sort of about whales from someone I went to high school with and who I still know now on social media. I LOVED the cover and have been thinking about reading it for a while and finally had the opportunity when I was down with a headcold at a friend’s place who had it. And I liked it. It’s an interesting Maine islander sort of story with a bunch of odd quirky characters--the lead is named Orange Whippey--which is sort of funny but not like “funny ha ha” I liked the characters, I sometimes got bogged down in the lengthy diatribes of some of them. I had a hard time connecting to the main character or telling the names of some of the other ones apart. And yet I still really liked it because it all seemed pretty real to me despite some obviously fantastic elements.

Syrup

I got to know Barry through his book Lexicon, and then read you some of his backlist. This is a really early book that I didn’t think I’d like from the description but it turns out it’s a really fun romp through corporate America, like a lot of his other books. You never quite sure what’s going to happen, and there’s a bit of a weird corporate breakneck pace to it that gets a little tiring but is sort of fun because there’s not really a whole bunch of violence in it.

Tag Man

A really great Gunther mystery with a bit character from an earlier story taking on a much larger role. This story seemed a bit more involved than some of the earlier ones, but maybe I just liked the main character more. In any case, a good read and a nice complex story.

The Takedown

I enjoyed this very tech-forward look from a high schooler’s perspective on the downsides to the social media panopticon. Kyle is a senior at a fancy prep school in Brooklyn with cool friends and a bright future when all of the sudden her world is turned upside down with a leaked sex tape that looks like it’s of her. How she and her friends respond to this fills up the bulk of this story which takes place in the near future where tech is slightly more advanced than now, or is it?

Appreciated a lot of the causal intermingling of tech and social lives in this book. Felt that some of it was a bit hand-wavey about some of the legal and moral implications (there is one specific part where people are talking about the sex-with-minors part that felt very not true=to=life about how such things are dealt with in America today) of all this tech. And, like many tech stories, this one is about the digitally plugged in and doesn’t really stop to give much time to class or poverty issues. Not that every book has to be everything to everyone, but it did seem noticeable in its absence.

I found the main character likeable but also sometimes unreliable in a way that felt refreshingly teenaged. Not sure how I felt about the ending but that’s mostly because I was really deep in to the story.

Tales of the Night

It’s a rare rare book that can capture the weird heat that permeates your being when you’re in love. Movies almost never do it, or swap out subtlety for explicit and over the top renditions. This is a book of short stories with a theme, two themes in fact. One of them is “love” and the other is a particular date in 1929 when all of the stories took place. From there, they run the gamut from allegorical exposition to steamy romance to the old “so *that’s* what that was all about” twist-at-the end stories. They’re great. It’s rare that a group of stories is able to cohere as a set and yet have most of the stories stand alone as individual pieces, not as, say, chapters in a book.

You read these tales and there is a familiar heat behind the ears, you know what these characters are going through and how tough their trials must be for them. So complex, so moving and so readable, even though this collection was translated from the original Danish. The yearning of his characters is palpable and yet the whole scenario is removed just a little bit in time and space so that they also feel somewhat ethereal.

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.

Tau Zero

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

The 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 Temps

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.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

So good and not just because a lot of it takes place in Vermont. This is a fantasy story but only sort of. The basic conceit" what if there were doors to other worlds that you could get to but they were hard to find. What if some people wanted them closed? What if other people wanted them open? How could you move among and between them? There’s a LOT going on in this story which mostly happens through the eyes of a young, female protagonist. A nicely complex story that nonetheless both wraps up and leaves a door open for more story to come.

That Day the Rabbi Left Town

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.

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau

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

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.

This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us

I honestly have no idea why more people didn’t hate this book. It’s the story of a genetic chimera, a person who is “two people” inside one body. They are M/F. You’d think this might be interesting. I have been reading so much “conscious” scifi lately I forgot that a lot of it is trash. This has all these terrible tropes, no feminist sensibility and is too clever by half. I am sorry I finished it.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

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

This Was Our Pact

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

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.

Three Can Keep A Secret

This was the post-Irene Gunther mystery that I’d heard so much about and I really liked it. Like the last book, Tag Man, the story doesn’t resolve neatly, but you’re not left hanging either. It’s a smart and more realistic feeling Mayor book and it’s all homegrown in Vermont and very evocative of recent events.

The Three-Body Problem

I read this at the same time I read another book which was similar but different. I was ashamed to admit that I had trouble with some of the names, not the fact that some of them were the same, but not being able to determine nuances by what people called one another etc. I enjoyed but had a hard time with the hard science-y aspects of this book since I felt like there was a lot of telling-not-showing and ultimately it wasn’t about the human stories at all which were the parts I found most compelling.

Through the Woods

Really an exceptional graphic novel of very short horror fiction. Carroll has a real way of telling ominous stories that have a really subdued creepiness to them and she doesn’t shy away from showing you the full-on awfulness of some of the creepy things and in other cases just hinting art them.

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.

Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out

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.

Tiamat’s Wrath

Another series I am caught up in. There is one more book coming but maybe not until 2020. I was so happy to see this gang of misfits wind up (mostly) back together again at the end of this, it made this book a little more satisfying than the others, even though there is, as always, a lot of loss and sorrow and “WTF is going to happen NOW?” feeling about it. Looking forward to seeing how, or if, it wraps up.

The Tiger Flu

This is one of those books that I finish and then go read other reviews of the book so I can be sure my interpretation of what was going on is actually correct or at least consensus-correct. This was a confusing book. But I liked it! Usually I “nope” out of these books where there’s either a really murky plotline or a lot of “And then she took drugs and you weren’t sure what was real for a few chapters afterwards” situations. But in this case, the plot was interesting, the characters were compelling and it’s SO refreshing to get to read a book where most of the characters are women, especially, a scifi book, that I pushed ahead and was happy I did.

Tinkers

I probably wouldn’t have touched this book if I had known what it was about. I finished it and loved it before I realized it had won a Pulitzer. It was great in that “I don’t normally like books like this” sort of way. It’s a set of family stories told through the mind and eyes of a dying man. It’s thick with pathos, even as the various stories are full of all sorts of life. The most similar author I thought of was Annie Proulx, a lot of bleak characters, stuck in intractable messes, full of longing. A great short book, pick it up even if you think you don’t usually like this sort of thing.

Titanshade

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

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

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

To Die But Once

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

Tourist Season

Hiaasen got a write up in Smithsonian magazine basically calling him some sort of an ecomystery writer intent on saving Florida from itself, so I picked up this book at my library. My library seems to have almost all of Hiaasen’s novels which means he must be really popular with the 60-90 year old set who mostly use the library. While Hiaasen is pretty amusing, and it was easy to tease out his personal opinions from the sort of Everglades romp that this book turns into, I just didn’t really like it. I think there’s something crass about “light” murder mysteries and his insistence on having many of the soon-to-be-murdered victims engage in some witty repartee with their killers just made my blood run cold. His other characters are likable and he’s a great writer, but I find the humor-mystery genre to really not be my cup of tea.

Trace

I was so busy this year I didn’t even note that Mayor had another book out. This one was heavier on the police wonk stuff (not in a bad way!) and lighter on relationship etc. stuff. Was happy to just get to watch the same old crew solve cases in Vermont so I enjoyed this.

The Transcriptionist

Was a little concerned about this one because it’s one of those novels written by someone who used to hold the job that the novel is about, but I shouldn’t have worried. This is a nice tight little novel about the weird world of the left-behind (job/person/people/offices) as the worldmoves on by. And lions, sort of. I liked it, I wish I could read it again, Rowland did a great job.

The Trespasser

French has written some of my favorite mystery type novels. Weird sorts of stories where there are a lot of emotions wrapped up in what seems to be like a pretty normal case. This book is ... sort of not like that. It’s a very dry procedural (or maybe the emotions that are involved in it are ones I didn’t relate to) about a murder that is tricky and a whole lot of interpersonal cop stuff that goes on while figuring it all out. I liked it but it didn’t have French’s usual underlying hum of weirdness and deep feelings.

A Trick of the Light

Another installation, this one about Claire’s ascension in the art world and an old friend of hers who winds up dead in her garden. A great sub-story about the nature of addiction and redemption which is also a good look into what has been going on with Beauvoir since the attack at the factory. A good book but not as delightful as the previous one.

True Biz

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.

Tucker Peak

Another mostly homegrown Joe Gunther mystery, at a fancy (made up) ski resort this time testing out the powers and the diplomatic abilities of the newish Vermont Bureau of Investigation. Enjoyed it, was sorry when it was done. Falls solidly in the middle of the pack as far as the latest run of books I’ve been reading from this series but I definitely liked it.

Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red

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.

Turning Angel

Iles always walks the line between stuff that is a bit too icky for me to read and stuff that is compelling and intriguing. This book straddles that line. It’s a story about a murdered girl who had been having a relationship with her doctor. Apparently she has also been having various types of relationships with other people as well. Since the dead girl was seventeen, this has a lot of repercussions, legally and socially, for those around her as the criminal investigation proceeds.

I’m not averse to reading about the weird world of teenage sex, but Iles saves a super graphic and disturbing rape scene for the very very end of this book, the last few pages really, tacked on to what was otherwise a sexy but not violently sexy (mostly) story. I found this hard to stomach and it made me much less likely to pick up another one of his books until I can get it vetted for sexual sadism. This is just my own personal preference as fasr as reading thriller/mysteries goes, but unlike some of his other stories which I felt were more cerebral, this one achieves a lot of its impact through beingtruly shocking, which was of less inteerst to me.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

I got this book as an ARC from a library when I was desperate for something to read on the way home from a trip. I read it quickly, enjoyed it a lot and didn’t learn that it was loosely based on the story of Hercules until reading reviews after the fact. This is one of those “weird girl” stories which I usually like unless they are super scary or sketchy and this is not one of those. A weird dad with few choices (or so he feels) winds up raising a daughter with his limited toolkit. They live in coastal Massachusetts. Good read, more of that “quirky seashore” set of books I was reading earlier.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes

Sakey wrote Brilliance which I loved so I went through some of his other books. This one was ... fine? The plot seemed contrived in places and the characters made choices I would not have made. It starts from an interesting premise: amnesiac guy comes to on the beach with no clothes on, wants to know what his story is ... and then turns into a bit of a romp through whodunit stuff. Mostly in LA, with some “let’s tell this part of the plot as if it’s a screenplay” device which I didn’t like much. Enjoyed the outlines of the plot, less so the characters and some of the resolutions.

Unaccustomed Earth

Another great collection of very poignant short stories usually about Indian people who have, at some point in their lives or their parents lives, moved to New England. Each story is different and a subtly different way of looking at otherness as it crosses generations and geographical boundaries.

Underground Airlines

Really enjoyed this alternate “What if Lincoln hadn’t wound up getting elected?” history book where slavery is still legal in the Hard Four states down South and even the North is a mess of racism and complex rule and class systems to keep everyone in line. The story itself is told by a “bounty hunter” of sorts an escaped slave who is now beholden to the government to trap other escaped slaves. Fascinating stuff. Winters does a good job explaining the details without getting bogged down in them and outlining the racist situation without the book actually falling into a lot of racist cliches.

Unforeseen

Such a great collection of short stories! I love Gloss and was a little dismayed by Dazzle of Day because it just wasn’t my thing. This book is very much more my thing. Great stories with a wide range of sometimes-quirky people having feelings about a thing. At the same time, slow-paced and deliberate and full of that great “sense of place” that makes Gloss so good at what she does. And maybe a touch of otherworldliness, but not too much. Overall a delight and only sad that I finished it too soon.

Vagabonds

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

Vanish

I call bullshit on pregnant cop stories. Apparently the cop in this story had her water burst while she was questioning a suspect and her whole delivery process shangahied by a kidnapping/siege that occurred in the hospital. I am not a parent, but I find a lot of the weird parenting that goes on in this book -- even keeping in mind the quirkiness of the main parent characters -- to be a little unbelievable. Add to that the graphic teen-rapes that happen in this book and it added up to a story that was interesting but not something I could honestly recommend to anyone.

The sex trade industry where women from other countries are forced into sex work in the US is a terrible thing, but I’m not sure if stories like this are helping raise awareness or just capitalizing on the tawdry titillation factor of subjugated women making a thriller mystery a good read. I liked the first Gerritsen book I read the best -- the one with the astronauts -- and I’ve found them sort of disappointing since.

Version Control

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

The Vessel

This was a funny little novella that takes place in a timeframe that sort of also happens in the end of The Doll. Munroe is on her own and goes after the super creepy guy from the last book. I sort of blindly picked this up and didn’t really know it was a mini-novel so was surprised when it ended but otherwise enjoyed it.

The Vig

One of the early Dismas hardy books in the series by Lescroart. I haven’t been up to much “serious” reading lately and having books to talk about with my sister and read on the bus/plane is about right for now.

Vortex

Enjoyed this sequel to the trilogy. Had a little more continuity than the second book in terms of seeing characters you recognized. This was true despite some of the book taking place 10000 years in the future. I thought Wilson did a good job with this huge leap and liked the way this story tied up fairly neatly.

Walkaway

I usually love Cory’s books so I was excited for this one. The premise is great, people get fed up with society and they set up their own society. Cool, how do they do it. Cory explains and it’s all really interesting philosophical ideas about building self-reliant stuff. Cool. But then it goes on. Any time two characters are together there’s often a long exposition about this or that philosophical idea. Which is sort of great but it gets deadly dull after a while. Cory writes great characters and their interactions are fun and interesting. But them expounding on the nature of wealthy people is just not that great. I kept skimming wanting to gt back to the STORY. I read to the end, and it was a nice/interesting wrap-up but I was just sort of bummed that it wasn’t better. A little too didactic and I am someone who is On Board with a lot of these philosophies which, come to think about it, may be why I didn’t feel I needed to read them again.

The Warehouse

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.

The Wartime Sisters

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.

Waste Tide

So good and so terrible! A searing indictment of capitalism and a fascinating look into complex Chinese culture. And yet every female character was dead, dying, tortured or a 2d cutout. Did not know it was trending that way until I was too deep in to bail. Like literally most of the characters could be described as downtrodden, sure, but none of them get sadistically assaulted until halfway through the book. As someone who tries to avoid that sort of thing, I felt I was invested. And also, if I’m being honest, hoping for a redemption in this book which didn’t really happen.

Watch Me Disappear

This is a tight little “what’s going on” missing person story. I sort of resent that it’s labeled Women’s fiction but that’s my own issue with the world of publishing I guess. This is a story about a mom who does missing... or does she? Figuring out what is going on is the job of her husband and 15 year old daughter as the time runs out on being able to declare her legally dead. This story went more places than I expected it to and I appreciated having some somewhat unreliable narrators in there to help me get perspective on what I thought was going on. A lot of interesting ruminations about family and togetherness as well as some nostalgia stuff for 90s era radical Seattle that rang very true to me.

Water for Elephants

Liked it! Sometimes it’s easy to see the bones of a book, the inspirational bits that the author formed a story around. In this case Gruen actually shows you some of the photos as she tells a tale of a boy who somewhat unwillingly ran away to join the circus, and what he found there.

Water Knife

This is an interesting dystopian thriller about the near future when water rights are the thing most worth fighting for in the American Southwest. This was a little on the too-gruesome side for me (some torture, some mayhem) bvut I found the characters so compelling I pushed on through it. Great plot and a lot of ideas about how a drastic water shortage would really work. A great page turning read.

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.

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.

We Were the Mulvaneys

[review pending]

Weather

Another great ARC from Offill. Had echoes of Barthelme but in a thoroughly modern context including a lot of post-election dread, caring for mentally ill family members and a feminist viewpoint. Not a ton of words but every one counts. I really like Offill’s voice and her sensitive treatment of complicated issues.

The Wheelman

Read this book a while back and forgot totally about it. It was a great thriller, one of those ones that sticks with you even after you’ve put it down (as opposed to all those others where you can’t really remember the name of it anymore). A lead character who you like despite him being sort of an asshole and a lot of weird “you think the guy is dead and he turns out not to be” stuff going on. Engaging.

When She Woke

One of the better books of this year and sorry I had been putting it off for so long. This is a retelling of the Scarlet Letter, sort of, in a figure where the US is hyper-religious and there has been some sort of a population scare so people are more interested in ever in controlling women’s reproductive rights. Anyhow, this woman gets pregnant from her married pastor lover and has an abortion. Which is a crime. Punishable by being tracked and DYED RED for sixteen years (because she wouldn’t name her abortionist). It’s very Handmaid’s Tale-ish except this book seems to like and care about its female characters. The women are scared and threatened but not raped as punishment. They make autonomous choices. The book doesn’t end with the perfect romance. It’s a great and complex book and really worth a good read.

Whereabouts

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.

While Justice Sleeps

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.

Who wants a cheap rhinoceros?

No idea at all why this never-checked-out book from the Silsby Free Public Library wound up on the free shelf of my local thrift store but I am glad it did. Previously published under his “fooling no one” pseudonym Uncle Shelby this book about how to play kid games with a very large rhino claims to be “revised and expanded” but for all I know that’s what the original claimed also. Silverstein’s great combination of amusing drawings and funny rhino situations make this a great book for young and old alike.

Wild Fire

A great but not amazing thriller about the potential end of the world at the hands of a bunch of crazy right-winger types. I enjoyed the cop aspect of this but the wiseass main character grated on my nerves after a while. Still, I read it all the way to the end and it was long and compelling enough to finish.

The Wild Girls

This was an exceptional YA book. It follows a pretty standard formula -- new girl comes to town, meets weird girl who spends a lot of time in the woods. School starts, weird girl is an outcast, new girl has to make a choice about whether to hang out with normal kids or the weird kid. However, Murphy gives this story much more depth. The characters are all fleshed out, even the grouchy Dad and the weird writing teacher, and you always get multiple perspectives on all the characters. The two girls wind up going in to the big city for a writing class and discover a bit about themselves but again it’s not the pat sort of self-discovery that I’d expect (possibly my expectations are just too low) and interesting things happen.

Wild Life

A terrific book, given to me by a friend when we were talking about cryptozoology and the place it takes in American fiction. This book is a lot of books at once: it’s got a strong female lead who is a very non-traditional female, it’s got a lot of outdoor PacNW history and “sense of place” activity, and buried in the middle of it is a parable about how humans interact with the earth, and how it could be different. Th set up of this book (a pile of journal entries, somewhat recreated after-the-fact by a modern-day person) was a little tough to get into at first but gradually became much more appealing. I was sorry when this book was over.

The Windup Girl

Remember how you saw that episode of Star Wars that you were really excited about and it turned out the thing that got everyone all out and fighting with each other was ... a trade war? This book is sort of like that. The textures of a post-collapse society where the world is run by calorie men and the mastodon union and generippers is really great but the plot inside the texture is a little.... slow? It’s all deal-making and deal-breaking and the “what actually HAPPENED here” story gets dribbled out over time. I enjoyed this book but there was a lot of blablabla dealmaking stuff about high level government stuff which just didn’t push my particular buttons.

Wingwalkers

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

The Witch Elm

This novel is a standalone and not part of the Dublin Murder books but I wasn’t sure that was the case until I was a bit of a ways into it. I liked this novel and it had a great “sense of place” with all the things going on around the sort of shared family homestead. At the same time, the main character gets a head injury not too far into the book and so getting most of the action described in this way can be a little confusing or stilted. Liked it but it didn’t pack quite the same punch as some of her others. I think the whodunit reveals at the end may have seemed a little foreshadowed.

The Woman in Cabin 10

This was a book that was at the BnB we were staying in in the UK and I read a few pages and then had to leave it behind. I got a copy when I got back and enjoyed it. Psychological thrillers aren’t usually my thing, I get tense and stay tense throughout them, but this one was suspenseful without being super creepy and the main character (though sleep and medication-deprived) is somewhat relatable and things do eventually mostly work out. Paged through it over the course of maybe a day and a half and now I want to look up what else Ware has written.

A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women

Loved this. A lot of thoughtful and interesting looks at different sci fi scenarios, just like you read about elsewhere except these stories all happened to be about women. I really enjoyed every story in this collection, though the LeGuin story started out pretty rapey which was essential to the story but pretty difficult to get through if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. On the bright side, the Octavia Butler story was NOT rapey which was terrific. Don’t know how I managed to not see this when it came out; glad I found it now.

Wool Omnibus

Everyone said this book was terrific and they were not wrong. I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. Sort of like that terrible dystopian movie which winds up with a bunch of crazy zombies, this is just about a community of people who live, who have always lived, in a 130+ story silo buried in the ground. Of course it’s never that simple and there is drama afoot. Howey does a great job writing a story that is gripping but also doesn’t fall back on all the old tired tropes we’re all so sick of.Can’t wait to read the next one.

World of Trouble

Ack, I totally fucked up and read this book before the second book. This book is the last in the trilogy and basically ends with the end of the world. It was great, but since I thought I was reading the second book in such a trilogy, I had presumed there was some sort of ... aftermath, maybe? Anyhow, this story is great, but since it talked about a bunch of things that happened in the second book, I just thought it was clunky with its exposition. Wish I’d read them in the right order, I didn’t. This was a great book.

Worldmakers: SF adventures in terraforming

Picked this up at a library booksale because I liked the cover. Was a bit disappointed when I found out it was from 2001 because I figured some of the stories would be pre-internet. I should not have worried. This is one of the best sorts of anthologies. Dozois has carefully selected stories, they’re arranged well and fit together nicely, and he gives enthusiastic introductions to almost all of them, intros that make you want to read more. I enjoyed every single story here, and they are all over the map from family tales with incidental terraforming to heavy science stories talking about ecopoesis. Reading this collection was a delight and I’m hoping to be able to track down his other collection about transhumanism.

Written in Fire

I really liked the first two books in this trilogy which I read without really knowing they were a trilogy but this one just fell flat. Instead of complicated stories about what you do with a new type of human it was just One Big War.

Year of Wonders

The last in my Geraldine Brooks series, this one is about a favorite topic: the plague. This book is historical fiction about the Plague Village, a place that wound up with plague in 1666 and quarantined itself to keep the plague from spreading to other villages. As with Brooks' other books, this one has a strong central female character and a lot of other interesting folks. Also like her other books, the ending that you think you’re hoping for isn’t the one she gives you and you wind up liking this one more. I enjoyed the detail-oriented look at a 17th century village complete with superstition, class fractitiousness and lots of messiness. A great read and possibly my favorite of the three even though People of the Book was more up my alley.

The Years of Rice and Salt

I have no excuse for continuing to read this 700+ page book after I knew it was not grabbing me except that I thought maybe the stories would all come together in some way that was super pleasing. Which, they sort of do and sort of do not. Robinson is a great writer and I love his big vocabulary and his world building stuff but I felt like the themes of this award-winning novel remained always just a bit outside of my reach or understanding so I wound up frequently frustrated or confused. Too long and not right for me. I should have not finished it.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

This book has been on my to-read list for along time and I’m not sure what took me so long. This slightly complex alternate history which winds up with a Jewish enclave in Sitka Alaska made me realize just now non-Jewish so much of my reading is. There’s a lot of tossed-in Yiddishisms and a lot of recognizable characters in this gorgeously-written tale which is a little bit of a mystery but mostly just a story about chess and family and making up for regrets.

Yo!

Picked this up at a library booksale and was looking forward to it since I like Alvarez’s work. It started out difficult “This woman sounds weird and I totally get why her sisters dislike her...” but then it got deep and complex and I was totally sucked in and won over by the end of it. Not necessary to read the other book before this one, but it can help.

You

Looks like a lot of people have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because I’d really loved Soon I Will Be Invincible but this book was a mess. Neat enough premise... takes place in the same suburban Boston area I grew up in, about when I grew up, characters are nerds and they start a gaming company. However, there is way too much “And then the wizard casts a spell and then you find a magic amulet in the knot in the tree and ...” sort of exposition about the games themselves and neither the games nor the characters are interesting enough and the story doesn’t cohere.

There are a lot of weird perspective shifts and some of the characters in the game sort of come to life (maybe? I never was quite sure I knew what was going on with them) and so there are maybe four levels of reality: current day, the past, inside the game and then whatever the reality is where the characters from the game come to life. Oh and there are dreams. All in all too confusing to dig through and didn’t really wrap up in a way that I found enjoyable or interesting. Not my thing.

You Are Not a Stranger Here

This book was wonderfully written but totally achingly sad. Everyone is either a super messed up person with some chronic mental illness, or the victim of one. That said, I loved the writing enough to power through the stories, but I might think twice about reading something Haslett wrote again only because there is only so much pain I can take in for pleasure reading.

You Don’t Love Me Yet

Caveat: Jonathan sent me this book. I’ve had a rough year of reading. I’ve been spending more of my travel time working and travel time was when I used to do a lot of reading. I’ve also done less flying and more driving, good for the environment [maybe?] but not so great for reading. So I was happy to get this bookwhich looked fun and interesting and did not disapoint thinking “maybe I can finish this one?” And you know what? I did. Not only did it finish it, but it almost seemed too short. I was going to save part of it for the flight home but tore through it wanting to know what happened and how.

The story and even the tone of this book are familiar. It’s a story of a band, and bandmates, and artists and the way they interact, drink, come together and come apart. There’s music, sex, drinking, eating and the schlepping of instruments. However, somehow this story, this band, this slice of live seems different, more interesting, more alive. The writing doesn’t fall over the same old music cliches and has enough big words that I felt that it was writing to my level. It doesn’t just say “it was the best song ever” it shows you some of the passion and the feeling and that hot-behind-the-ears buzz you get when something is just so right. It’s hard to do that well, in my opinion, and it’s horrible when it’s done wrong. This was a fun, fast, lively read. The book cover text says something to the effect of how “things will never be the same...” for this band and yet it both is and isn’t always the same.

The Zenith Angle

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a Bruce Sterling book I hadn’t read yet. I like his writing and this book I liked even more than usual. Sterling is one of a very short list of authors who can write books that are some level of “cyber” and I will buy their story and not pick nits with their tech. This says more about most authors than it does about my l337ne$$, but I like tech fiction books and I don’t read enough of them. This novel surrounds September 11th. The short premise is “what do the super smart cyberwarriors do when the playing field changes?” It’s loosely about one super smart techie guy who starts out working for a big tech firm doing somethingorother and quickly gets enlisted into the war on terror, with surprising results. The guy is a likeable and believable techie character and the wholeplot has a real feel to it, even as it plots out a future that is somewhat dystopian and bleak. Sterling knows his stuff and tells a good story while at the same time not populating it with cardboard cutout characters.

The Zero Game

Got this at a library booksale because the binding was a little cracked. Good book, up to Meltzer’s usual thriller level with some Capitol Hill [and mining] trivia tossed in for good measure.

Zero History

This book seems to be getting only “meh” reviews overall but I quite liked it. Same characters from the last book and a bit of the same old story, coolhunting of esoteric brands and topics and some crack teams of superagents who have to pull off a caper. Enjoyable to Gibson fans, possibly disappointing to people who were looking for something newer and fresher?

Zero Option

I seem to only be reading St. Marten’s Press books this year. This book was on the share-a-book shelf at the hotel I was staying at and was a totally decent thriller-type read about a creepy chemical bioagent that disappears and the group of people -- Army FBI, random folks -- who have to try to get it back. It’s an interesting story with a lot of decent characters who all have a good news/bad news side to them and it was worth reading up until the end. I generally don’t read sort of political-military thrillers -- there was a lot of back and forth in this one about how the various federal agencies interact which sounds like snoresville but it was well done to my eyes -- but the last few I’ve picked up have been enjoyable.

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.