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« February, 2022 »
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.

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.

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.


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.

Stargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope

This book had been on my shelf for a long time, picked up at a library booksale somewhere in Michigan. It’s basically a history of telescope technology as told by a telescope nerd. Well-illustrated. A bit on the dry side but no more than I was expecting. And he really tries to acknowledge the history of women, usually as doting sisters to astronomers who didnt get enough credit at the time, and I appreciated that. I learned things about the night sky and I enjoyed learning about old astronomer drama.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.