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Starling House

For fans of Alix Harrow, you’ll probably love this. I did. It’s categorized as “horror” but it’s not the usual endless-pain type of horror, but more a spooky sort-of-alive house with a complicated legacy in a bad luck Kentucky town that maybe is actually just haunted. Plucky female protagonist and a cast of characters including the town librarian who is always ready with some peanut butter crackers. And a young man trying to figure out how to do the right thing. I wanted to know where it was going and I enjoyed being along for hte ride.

How To Love: A Guide to Feelings and Relationships for Everyone

This is a nice little graphic novel from the person who brought you the “oh no” person. It’s a really affirming and “It’s okay to be you” set of short chapters outlining how to deal with some Relationship 101 stuff like “What do I do if they don’t like me?” and “How do I manage this gender stuff?” The illustrations are fun, colorful, whimsical, and not about any type of person in particular while still being clever and enjoyable to read.


When you read the afterword Peper confesses that he really wrote this book a sentence at a time with no real idea where it was going and that it was a good writing experience for him. This was a fun book for what it was--a sort of frenetic superspy novel that starts at the end and then tries to tell you how it got there--but also feels like it was written in that way. I enjoyed it but it’s a departure from Peper’s other carefully-crafted novels.

The Circumference of the World

This was a confusing book, not so much because of the physics of it (which are complex) but because it seems to not be sure what kind of book it wants to be. We meet characters from the present, past, and distant future, presented out of time, telling a tale of a possible missing or maybe-it-never-existed very important book which might change the course of history. And there were a lot of homages to Golden Age scifi which were neat but felt gratuitous. If you are someone who appreciates that kind of homage, this might be more up your alley.

Wrong Way

Joanne’s writing has always had both deeply visceral feel-it-in-your-bones qualities at the same time as embodying an otherwordliness or ethereal quality with a dead calm at its center. I’ve mostly read her newsletters and articles so it was a real joy to get to dive into some fiction by her. This story takes place in a near future where a Meta-like company offers employment that isn’t what it seems but also might be what our itinerant protagonist wants, or possibly needs. I enjoyed that it took place in a part of Massachusetts which I already mostly knew. I did have a difficult time, somewhat, picturing some of the things described in this book.

More Perfect

This book walked the fine line for me with having a lot of pretty serious pain and drama but also being a story with some hope at the center of it. I guess it uses the “myth of Eurydice” at the center of it but I didn’t know that myth particularly and it didn’t matter. It’s all about a possible future, after the devastating London Flood. People mostly have implants that connect them to a future version of the web. But some don’t and don’t want them. And there’s a conflict and a tension between the world as it’s becoming and peopel who have a vision for a different sort of world.

Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy

. Faith Erin Hicks does really affirming stories about young adults navigating learning how to be... better people. I did not particularly know about the “hockey romance” genre except that it is a thing and this is positioned solidly in the middle of it. This one sort of telegraphs where it’s going from the cover but there’s a lot more going on. A young woman who plays hockey dealing with bullying and getting to know her parents. A young man with a fluid sexual identity tries to learn to be a better friend and learn to trust his mom’s partner choices. Well done, worth reading.

The Road to Roswell

A fun not-too-serious Willis novel that takes as a central premise “What if aliens abducted us, only stayed here on earth?” and then just goes on a full-on romp from there. I enjoyed it. There’s a little too much of one tiresome character for my tastes, but that’s a minor quibble. Willis is such a master of the form that you know if someone’s annoying, there’s a reason it’s not that she doesn’t know how to write characters. Super fun. If you like sci-fi but want something a little less Space Opera, this may be for you. Female protagonist. Quirky aliens. A lot of fun Western tropes.

Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me

A 12 year old book which I picked up because I saw Mandel lending Andy Kindler his hologram machine. Mandel has OCD and talks at length about his germaphobia, his ADHD, his idea of funny pranks (which are often not funny to others, which he sees but also kind of can’t help himself) and the arc of his life from being born until about 2008. I was surprised he had a co-writer because even though this book was interesting it wasn’t very well-written. I find Mandel a bit exhausting when I see him and this shed light into why that is. It also ended on a health scare note and even though I knew how to wound up because Mandel is well known, it was a strange place to end a book.

The Salvation Gambit

You’d think I was on some sort of a religious-book tear but this was just coincidence. This is the story of a small band of Leverage-style scammers who get taken aboard a prison-type ship for some reason and have to figure out what is going on and how to get out. It’s more than that but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Primarily female leads of a variety of kinds, a malevolent AI, and enough going on that it’s fast-paced but not so much that it’s exhausting.

Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator

This was a great graphic novel about a first-time New York state legislator, Julia Salazar, doing a lot of coalition building and organizing, trying to pass a number of important rental housing reforms. A lot of “how the sausage gets made” information about how bills get passed in NY state and some other specific stuff about this legislator. I enjoyed the story though within the exposition there was a little bit of tell-don’t-show--i.e. characters doing a lot of explaining through repetitive talk bubbles--which seemed odd for a graphic novel.


Trussoni wrote another thriller that I liked just fine but did not love. This is a more ambitious book that is loosely about the history of angels, their odd position in modern-day society, and a group that is dedicated to both keeping secrets about them and also finding out the truth. It was good but the pacing was SO uneven (there’s a whole massive story-within-a-story that is sort of dumped into the middle) that ultimately it wasn’t my jam but might be someone else’s. I’m still going to try the next book in the series because I like Trussoni’s plots.

Whispers Underground

This is another book from the Rivers of London series, we’re meeting more different magical beings and getting more non-magical people trained up in some of the magical arts. It was a good story, a little too much of it took place underground in the gross sewers but other than that I’m continuing to enjoy this series and am curious to know where it goes next.

Save It For Later

Powell is the illustrator who made March, about John Lewis’s personal activism arc. This is a series of graphic essays about Powell’s own inspection of what being a parent, and a white person, means during a time when the American flag, police and even elected officials can be... wrong. He discusses his own feelings and how he and his spouse decide to talk to their daughters about political events of 2016 til about 2021. Very poignant and well-told, and not unhopeful.

Generation Ship

This ship has been en route to a potentially-habitable planet for 250 years with strict rules in place for working and living including a maximum life expectancy. Now with the new planet within reach, there are a worrying number of survey probes that approach the planet and then... vanish? Or something, it’s unclear because the flow of information is spotty for various reasons. Factions arise about how to manage this possible problem. A very lively novel and one of the few where “one story told through multiple perspectives” didn’t bug me.

The He-Man Effect

A graphic novel about the commercialization of childrens' toys and some of the major players who tried to encourage it or tried to stop or mitigate it. I’ve been on the fence about a lot of Brown’s books who I guess is going more by “Brian” now. I love his illustrations but the storytelling always feels flat. This one is my fave of his so far. Even so, the “your” in the title implies that we’re all the same age and had the same experiences. As someone a little older than the target demo here, that didn’t resonate with me and some of this stuff felt like it was happening to younger kids.

The Naked Tree

This was a graphic novel re-working of a well-known novel that takes place in Seoul during the Korean War. The author made some changes to the story (adding and removing characters, she mentions in the afterword) and while it’s seemed well-received from other people, I could not follow some of the story lines and timeline shifts and wound up confused at the end of it. It’s a hard story, told during the conflict that destroyed communities, and this is the backdrop. There are also a lot of plot points around family loyalty that might have made sense with more explication but seemed to not totally resolve in this format.

I Could Hardly Keep from Laughing

This is an illustrated collection of Vermont humor which I picked up because it’s illustrated by a local guy who I help with computer stuff. He’s quite good. It’s got a lot of the droll humor that I think people associate with old school Vermonters. There’s a little bit of “You’re not a REAL Vermonter unless....” posturing which was not quite my taste coming from a bunch of guys who went to Harvard, but I’m a flatlander so what do I know? As someone who has “only” lived in Vermont for 25 years a lot of this rings true and was a fun read. Great pictures, some funny stories

The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England.

Sanderson usually writes fantasy stuff which is not usually my bag. However this book veers much more towards sci-fi and humorous sci-fi to boot and it was EXACTLY my bag. Funny, with an interesting plot line--you can kind of tell what it is by the title--and a gradually revealed main character. Only suggestion for future readers: splurge on a print (or at least color) copy because there are many adorable illustrations that should not be missed

There is No Right Way to Meditate

This is a short and sweet graphic novel that talks about various ways people can meditate or even think about meditation. I’ve had a regular (albeit short) practice for the past eight years or so and this book’s advice and positive suggestions rang true to my experience. Good for someone who is thinking about starting a practice but also maybe concerned they will do it wrong.

Moon Over Soho

The next in the Rivers of London series and I enjoyed it a bunch. It’s somehow easier to appreciate cop stories if they’re from another culture that isn’t quite so gun-crazy. I’m liking the evolution of our main protagonist who is learning magic slowly and in his own way and I liked the general plot about something bad happening to jazz musicians. But what exactly is happening? And why? Also featured a spooky abandoned library so it was right up my street.

The Rivers of London

A sort of cop procedural only with a little bit of low-level magic in it as well. Our protagonist has a mom from Sierra Leone and a dad from London and he’s a newish police officer, decent at the job but in over his head with this new “Wait, magic is real?” realization. As the reader, you get swept along trying to figure it out at the same time as he does. And the general cop plot has to do with a local slightly-magical crime, but also settling some disputes with the beings who oversee some of the magical elements of the Thames. A great story and one in a longish series. Glad I picked it up, was fun to read when my partner was on a London vacation especially.

Deaf Utopia

One of the few younger-person memoirs that I’ve enjoyed lately. DiMarco is a 5th generation Deaf American and this is about his life to date including participating on America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars, exploring his sexual orientation (and how and when to come out about it) and some of the choices he’s had to make especially when asked to put his Deaf identity on the back burner. A great read, especially for people who may not know a lot about Deaf culture.

The Seven-Year Slip

I picked this up thinking it was a time travel book which it sort of was. However, it turned out to be much more of a romance. Like, this is a romance novel. Which was not a bad thing at all, it’s just not a genre I know much about or read frequently. Thanks to a recent NELA presentation (thanks Robin!) I did have a fair idea of where it was going which was nice enough and made the classic “Will this work out okay?” tension a little less of an issue. The story made a little more sense when I read the Afterword. Engaging but don’t think too hard about the time travel part.

Starter Villain

I love Scalzi’s books because I can read the humor in them in pitch-perfect internet-person voice and they’re just lovely like that. This was a story about a guy whose distant uncle dies and... leaves him in charge of what may be a massive criminal enterprise. And there’s a lot of figuring out what’s what, and it’s amusing in parts, serious in others. There are a lot of fun twists and turns and a lot of cats (and some dolphins) which play important roles. I enjoyed it. I was sad when it was over.


I’m not sure how or when I got this book. I started reading it thinking it was one of my sci-fi novels, waiting for the story to get weird. And it does get weird but not like I expected (and it’s not sci-fi). It has that “book within a book” format for a lot of it which I have an irrational hatred for. A lot of lovely descriptions of big houses and plants and animals in South Australia and Sydney. A convoluted story of a maybe-murder and complex motherhood. A lot of different stories being told. A mystery that I found a little foreshadowed early on. Good not great.

The Surviving Sky

Another really great first novel with epic worldbuilding in a future-Earth where the planet is uninhabitable and the humans take to the skies using a method that greatly taxes the people maintaining it and creates a class-stratified society between “architects” and everyone else. At its core, however, it’s about a marriage and two people who fight an awful lot. I loved the first aspect and found the second aspect hard for me, personally. Like there is a lot of these two people deciding to be apart and then get drawn back together and it’s unclear even if they should be together or not. I liked the world building parts but it’s one of those stories where people keep a lot of secrets and you feel like the arc of the story might be a lot shorter if they would just talk to one another. An excellently diverse cast of characters. Probably will not pick up the sequel.

Against Technoableism

If you’re familiar with the social model of disability you will probably like this and also probably learn more about it. Shew is an amputee with brain fog from chemo and she talks openly and honestly about her own situation and what she knows about other situations (including neurodiversity, why Autism Speaks sucks &c.) by being in disability activism communities. It’s a short and interesting book that I wish had been longer.


This book had lovely writing and such a bleak story. A man decides to homestead in Alaska right before statehood. He’d seen some shit when he was in the armed force but we’re not sure exactly what. He meets a young woman who is looking to escape a bad family scene in Texas, raised by an unloving grandmother,mom not really in the picture. They meet and marry and move into a bus on their land and slowly build a cabin and get to know each other. There are a lot of ways to tell this kind of story, and this way was one of the more spare and gritty ones. There’s some amazing Alaska information and facts. Sometimes even a bit too much. This story is loosely based on some people in Moustakis' own family and some if the recounting of forms that get filled out are clearly real-world things but don’t make for as good real-world reading.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

This book seems like it might be a multiverse story but it mostly isn’t. I’m not sure how it wound up on my radar, but it’s about a few different and distinct types of humans who wind up together on a planet after the destruction of one of the race’s planets. There’s a lot of travel, exploration of other cultures on the planet, a little bit of relationship stuff (there’s a high value placed on marriage and also the destroyed planet’s survivors want to preserve their culture). There’s some good “where did this book come from?” explanation in the afterword. I liked it. It was sort of snoozy and not much happens but the world building and culture building are interesting.

And Now I Spill the Family Secrets

I did not read this book earlier b/c I was afraid it was a “dead mom” book because there is a mom’s suicide attempt on page one. The mom, however, lives. This is a story about growing up in a family with a mother with a serious maybe untreated mental health issue (and a brother with one which is alluded to more than it’s explained until very late in the book) where people don’t talk about the important things. It has a spookiness to it that I did not enjoy and I was left with more questions about the author’s life than answers.

Thirsty Mermaids

From the person who brought you Lumberjanes. It’s not quite like this is “the same only underwater,” but if you appreciated the same affirming and inclusive cast of characters of that book, you’ll probably love this one. It’s a story of people who live in the water who come to land to check it out and then get a little stuck there without a lot of knowledge of non-water culture. Slightly difficult to read in a restaurant (for me!) because there are at least a few topless merpeople but it’s just titsy, not otherwise a sexy story except in that way body positivity can be sexy.

My Life Had Stood A Loaded Gun

A very-local story about a youngish aimless man who winds up teaching GED classes in the jail in Woodstock Vermont. It reads a lot like some of those graphic novel memoirs I’ve picked up, early writings by someone who later finds more of their style, life and voice. Padnos winds up getting his book (some of which is just transcribed jail diaries written during the time he was teaching, some is more narrative) published. A large-scale crime occurs in the area, he ruminates on it, and on the young men who committed it. This book was very trope-y about jail and crime and that sort of thing, and I wouldn’t have finished it at all except for the local angle. When I went to read reviews of it, I found that Padnos has since changed his name and gone on to be a journalist of some stature, so I’ll chalk this up to being an awkward first effort.

The Deep Sky

This is one hell of a great first novel. A generation ship full of mainly women--with some NB folks and male uterus-havers, everyone on board needs to be capable of birthing a child--embark on a one-way trip to a distant planet and... something goes wrong. It’s a familiar story but the characters and backstory about the intense competition to even get to GO on this trip, are really engaging and enthralling. There are some aspects of family/upbringing, some nice descriptions of birds and a little bit of backwards/forwards in terms of the narrative, but not so much that it was distracting or difficult to follow.

The Collector

The latest installment in my “problematic fave” series about an Israeli assassin who is also a fine art restorer and artist. I like the books in this series that are more about art and less about the Holocaust and this is one of them. Although there is still the “man who purportedly loves his family more than anything still puts himself in harm’s way while being supposedly retired” aspect. A little nod to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist which I was not expecting. All in all a fairly predictable-in-a-good way spy tradecraft book.

How Can I Help You?

This is a book about a full time librarian who is also a writer. It was written by a part-time librarian who is also a writer. I liked it for the library verisimilitude (so many books get this wrong) but was not that compelled by the story about a librarian with a weird past and another librarian who is intrigued by it. It’s told from the alternating perspective of each character and I just didn’t like them much. Good for “books about libraries” completionists and fast readers.


The last Connie Willis book I read (Passage) was all about missed, vague, or unreliable communication. This one is all about having too much communication, per the title, and had a hectic feel to parts of it which really got the point across but also sometimes made it a bit tough to read. For those who fund the introductory chapter a little difficult (detailing a woman trying to deal with too many text messages, phone calls, and other interruptions) know that it smooths out at least somewhat and turns into a really fascinating story about how we talk to one another and know about each other.

The Mountain in the Sea

A terrific look at what it might look like to start to interact with a truly alien intelligence (in this case, octopus) while the whole world is working on their AI game and trying to be the first to find and exploit this. There are a lot of storylines in this novel but the main one is about a scientist, who grew up isolated and nerdy but fascinated by other intelligences, for maybe obvious reasons. She’s sent to an isolated and nerdy outpost where it’s not clear exactly what her role is. Meanwhile, outside this location, other people are trying to hack in and figuring out how to use this new knowledge for power and dominance. This book has a bit of everything--ai, cyberspace, automatons, animals that think, cybersecurity and hacking, near-future dystopias--and yet it doesn’t feel cluttered or that it’s trying to do too much.

Spying on Whales

A great book by a Smithsonian whale scientist stringing together a lot of sciencey anecdotes outlining how we know what we know about different kinds of whales, and how that’s changed over time. Some truly fascinating stuff with a cool bonus of some really interesting linocut illustrations which work well in service of this well-written book. A warning for whale-lovers: not all of the chapters involve conservation and respect for US-style whale protection. While the author definitely discusses these issues, there are also some graphic chapters about whaling and whale processing in the countries where that sort of thing is still legal.

The Puzzle Master

Not really too much about puzzles, this was a solid workmanlike thriller about the quest to figure out an ancient secret. Our protagonist is a former high school football star who became somewhat of a puzzle-solving savant after a head injury. He’s a compelling character but some of the others are less so and there’s some dull explication of plot-necessary points that I felt could have gone better. Engaging not amazing.


Another really rich and dense book by Nick Harkaway, suggested to me by someone after I said I’d liked Titanium Noir. A complex story about an island community living out their last days before a forced evacuation that keeps getting postponed. Our protagonist is a representative of the British Empire who is no longer the ruling power on the island, and there’s a shady “fleet” which stays just offshore, where all sorts of bad stuff goes on.

Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human

Let’s Talk About It. A great book about how to talk about some of the tough questions surrounding sexual health and related topics for young people. Moen and Nolan are well known as the Oh Joy Sex Toy people and if you like their work there, you’ll love it here as well. Just helpful solid advice delivered in a matter of fact manner but not dry, dull, or academic. A really diverse group of characters, so hopefully everyone can see themselves somewhere in it.

Hidden Systems

A book that looks at the infrastructure that we have for electricity, water and internet, who builds it, who benefits, who gets kind of screwed over. It’s really easy to follow and engaging. The illustrations make sense without being overly complicated. Well done, easy to understand, and informative.

Empires of Light

A book on a shelf for a long time which I finally picked up. A look at three men (Tesla, Edison, Westinghouse) who were a big deal in early electricity in the US and the larger orbit of other men around them. Not as interesting as I had hoped. A lot of long quotes from other source material, diversions into side stories that did a lot of “scene setting” which I was not as interested in, and it did not add a lot to what I already knew about all three men profiled.

Girlfriend on Mars

This book was about a reality show competition to be the first couple sent to Mars as part of a billionaire’s “Let’s go to a new planet since we’ve wrecked this one” plan. The woman wants to go and gives the competition her all. Her stoner agoraphobic boyfriend stays behind, tending to the pot plants they’d been growing and selling. Both of them ruminate a lot on the future of the planet, and what their relationship meant and whether they’d made the right decisions. There are a lot of complex thoughts about their families of origin The book ends in a very weird place but overall a fun read.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

This was a terrific palate cleanser after The Librarianist. Written by someone who actually knows what goes on in a rare books department of a university library, it’s a story about missing books but ultimately about power and money and what “progress” looks like. Female protagonist, a lot of complicated characters, takes place in Canada but could be at nearly any large Western university. There’s a mystery at the center of it and a bunch of terrible people but also some redeeming ones.

A Stranger in Olondria

I told a friend I was looking for a fantasy-ish book that wasn’t just “dragons fighting wizards” (no shade, just not my thing) and this book was both amazing and also terrible. Impressive world building, luxurious writing, lots of great tale-telling but long and slow slow slow and ultimately full of a lot of recursive stories without enough central plot to want to take all the little diverging paths. Few female characters and no good ones. I felt weird about not liking it because it’s so obviously a good book fro some people, just not for me.

Project Nought

This was a great read-it-in-an-afternoon YA novel about a future world where young people in the New Zealand of today (2090?) do “foreign” exchange with young people from the past, in this case a long time ago in the 1990s. The giant corporation in charge of it all seems to have some secrets. A wide cast of LGBTQ characters and some nice commentary about ways the world is, or could be, better in the future.


A pretty interesting Korean SFF novel which envisions a future where there is AI and a fancy space elevator but still the same old corporate fuckery and warring factions vying for power. The space elevator is attached to one island and the history of that island, and who tells it, are somewhat in play during this story. I had a little bit of trouble with keeping the names straight (a me-problem) since there are a few generations of folks in the same family being discussed, but there’s a great hard-boiled “external affairs” guy who narrates a lot of this. Very narration-heavy generally.

The Librarianist

I will read nearly any book about librarians. This book may have cured me of that. It’s a well-written book full of interesting pathos and characters, you might like it, but all the library stuff seemed written by someone who only knew about libraries from the movies and I Could Not Get Past It. The librarian has no friends, is poorly-treated, worked in a library for 50 years (that doesn’t really exist) and spends his whole life getting over a brief marriage. There is a lot of reflection, not a lot happening. The writing is lovely but you spend a lot of time inhabiting the head of a character who is hard to root for. Bah.

Red Team Blues

There was some early overexplainy stuff in the beginning of this book which made me think I wouldn’t like it, but the story actually kept me paying attention. There’s a background of crypto/blockchain topics but even if you don’t want to read about that sort of thing, you might like this. A Red Team guy (one who looks for vulnerabilities in systems) needs to play for the Blue Team (i.e. protect himself) and it’s interesting, not super deep, but I enjoyed it.


This was a book written in 2004 about the sociological changes that cell phones were bringing to the world. The cover shows a candybar-style phone but stylized to look like a swiss army knife reflecting a very particular point in time when cell phones could kiiinda do pictures/video but not much else, but other stuff was right on the horizon. The author skips footnotes in favor of parentheticals which makes for a weird reading experience because there are a lot of asides often pointing to other things he’s written. A neat time capsule of when cell phones were a very specific thing.

Titanium Noir

I felt a little overwhelmed by Harkaway’s book Gnomon like I didn’t quite get it and it was not quite grounded in reality enough for me. This one is more accessible and really good. It’s in a future where the ultrawealthy can get medically enhanced, becoming a class of humans called Titans who are bigger and stronger and longer-lived than everyone else. Our protagonist is a not-a-cop guy who investigates legal situations Titans may be involved in. And, of course, gets too wrapped up in stuff. At its heart, a noir-sh mystery but with a scifi bent. I’m sorry it’s over.

The Motion Picture Teller

Ever read a book that has another story inside it (a movie or a play or a novel) and you think “I bet this author wrote this other thing and is now trying to wedge it into this thing.” That is EXACTLY what this is. An interesting story about a film buff postman in Thailand who becomes obsessed with a movie he encounters randomly. But there sure is a lot of that movie’s screenplay in it. Also he’s a white man writing about Thailand which always makes me feel odd. I’ve heard good things about the author, don’t know much about him generally, the book gave me a weird vibe even while being a good story.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I feel like I’m the last person in my loose circles to read Solnit. I love her writing. I like the poignancy and the almost-instant nostalgia she can evoke. These essays are various ruminations on things lost--people, ideas, places, animals--and some of them land well and some of them land a little less well. I think the deeply personal ones, told in Solnit’s specific narrative vagueness, get the point across but maybe not in the way she intended. I found myself sort of muttering in disagreement with some of her topics, but nodding in agreement with some of her other ones.

Goodbye Pound Cake

This was a YA book I read for work, a fairly run-of-the-mill redemption arc of a young woman with a weight problem who is bullied and unhappy, living with a single dad. She decides to do something about it, joins the cross-country team, becomes friends with the young man she has a crush on. This book seemed more like it was written in the last century, a LOT of fat shaming and approaches to young people’s struggles that felt outmoded and outdated.


From the author who brought you Machinehood, this is another nicely complex story about where humans fit into a future world that is ruled by alloys (i.e. sentient machines) and especially the overlap between their two cultures. A lot of politicking, some space exploration and a love story at the heart of it. Some really sensible and compassionate treatment of the question “What is a disability?” with a protagonist with sickle cell and an alloy who gets damaged. I loved the different ways the author approached these ideas and how there wasn’t just one right way to be a human OR be an alloy.


This is a great book about the history of beavers in North America and what the US might have looked like before humans eradicated nearly all the beaver population before they came (a little bit) back. The author looks at modern-day trappers, beaver enthusiasts, folks who study rivers, and a quirky assortment of academics. It’s readable, strongest when it’s giving you cool beaver facts and fascinating beaver history, and weakest when the author talks about her Connecticut neighborhood and the more “wild” parts of it.

The Contradictions

I am starting to feel like my public library specifically stocks these “memoir-style stories by young awkward queer women trying to work out some shit” books (more power to them!) and I pick them up thinking they are different sorts of stories and they’re not my jam. This was a well-illustrated story about Sophie’s time in Paris where she befriends and goes on a multi-country crusty-punk style road trip with someone who seems super annoying. But at least one review I read said it was not a memoir so I don’t even know what to think. There’s just a lot of ennui in these books which is good for illustrating but sometimes tough for reading.

The Terraformers

A nice antidote to the book I read before it. Even though this book has its share of conflicts, it remains deeply hopeful about the way another world is possible, a world where anything sentient can be a person, a person who is accommodated, and is valued in a larger society. Kind of about, but also not about, terraforming in a universe way into the future where entire planets are owned and remade. It’s also about friendships, community and talking robot beavers who like playing video games. A lot of people point out the “moose romance” which I also liked but didn’t seem to be the central best relationship. A lot of plucky rebels and a satisfying story arc.


Michael Twitty is Black, Jewish, gay and fat (his own self-description) and a scholar of the foodways of his people. This book is an exploration of just who those people are, where the intersections are, and how those various cultures have informed one another. There are also recipes which are recognizable both as kosher and coming out of various Black traditions. I enjoyed this book a lot even though it took me a while to get into the rhythm of it since I was expecting a food exploration from the get-go and it’s a lot more than that.


This book was nearly 700 pages and ended with “To Be Continued” and I can’t even. It’s written by the same guy who wrote The Last Astronaut which I mostly liked. It was a deeply horrific space nightmare with a pretty interesting plot--there’s an infectious *thing* out there which is memetic and gets into your head and causes thought distortions that destroy communities, usually through mass die-offs or mayhem (like one makes people forget how to breathe, very spooky). A small cast of characters along with some sentient AIs with funny names. But there was just so much agony it was a pretty tough read. Will not read the sequel.

Messy Roots

I have a particular weird feeling about graphic memoirs written by young women (I have this “You haven’t even lived yet!” internal feeling) but this is a me problem, not a book problem. This is one of the better ones of the bunch, a woman who moves to the US at a young age, maybe doesn’t know she’s queer yet, controlling family, confusing school life. Like a lot of these graphic memoirs, there’s a lot of drawn out struggle with a “Wellp all good now” vibe towards the end. Well drawn, well-told.

Death Comes to Marlow

I enjoyed this second installment of the Marlow Murder Club books, it feels very much like the Richard Osman books only not quite as funny. It’s the same three friends who we mostly have gotten to know by now, so no major reveals in that arena. This one had a bit of a lengthy wrap-up that was all-tell-no-show which is never my fave, but I still enjoy the series and the quirky assortment of characters.


What would you do if you were the last living human on earth, “rescued” by an alien race and taken to their home planet and constantly, but politely, made an object of study? How would you feel, and how would you spend your time? This is a really nice moody novel that follows such a person. It’s a great example of incidental world-building while remaining character focused. There are some ups and downs but not much happens and you don’t really mind. I liked it a lot.


I went and visited my town’s waste water treatment facility the same week I was reading this book. It’s a book that looks into the various things you can do with human waste. How we treat it, how it can treat us, various different ways you can try to live more sustainably with the things we excrete (mostly poop). This book is chatty, upbeat, and interesting without being too pie in the sky about what we need to be doing. Nelson is a very capable science writer with a doctorate in microbiology and a decent sense of humor which is a must for a book like this.

Beyond the Hallowed Sky

An interesting book about a future Earth split into three major factions during a time when some of the factions discover faster than light travel (and don’t tell the other factions). A little uneven in bits and also one of those novels where there are three very separate storylines--one on Venus, one on a new planet, one on Earth--and one of them (imo) is more compelling than the other two. I liked the characters, sometimes found the story confusing to follow, will definitely read the sequel.

Infinity Gate

This was a good take on the “What does it mean to be human in a world full of smart AIs?” but maybe not as good as Machinehood, but includes multiverses! One of the main lessons all these books have is “There will be so much misery” and the whole last part of this book dwells in it, a lot. So if that’s not your jam, avoid this book Liked the book, could have done with less suffering. Also the first in a series and kind of ends with a TO BE CONTINUED which....

More Trees to Climb

This is a collection of humorous stories which Moor has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. They’re strange, compelling and not like any other stories I’ve read before. There’s a neat combination of wordplay, personal-feeling exposition and pathos that makes you want to keep reading. But at the same time, some of this feels like it was more designed (as it was) to be acted out and not read on a page. And with an intro by Stewart Lee!


A really well-done book about a near-future where AIs are regulated, humans are in a never-ending war to be able to “compete” with machines in the free market, the gig/attention economy is most of everything, and some people (and machines) fight back. Some interesting ways to think about what it means to be human, and what it means to be non-violent in a world where billionaires (called “funders” in this context) wield too much power and care too little. A very international book which also looks at how badly, even in an AI-laden future, resources and opportunity are distributed.


A short book of short fiction, much of it centered on weird little aspects of language. These stories all had a very gentle feel even as they covered some topics (relationships, break-ups, loss, bad people) which were not at all easy. Williams seems to delight in wordplay which is fun to read and makes sense in the short story format, might be aggravating in a longer book, even as I wished this one was longer.

The Marlow Murder Club

A book from one of my favorite genres “Older woman with a particular set of skills investigates murders with unlikely friends in the UK” You’d think it would be hard to find more of them but it seems like they are everywhere. The lead woman in this case is an independent woman who lives in the Thames in a very big house which she inherited from her aunt. People in town know who she is because she rides her bike around wearing a cape. She writes crossword puzzles for a job, a job she doesn’t seem to need. Her neighbor is killed, possibly murdered, and she jumps in when the police don’t seem to be. This was an enjoyable read and a satisfying mystery.

The Contract With God Trilogy

A great collection of some of Eisner’s earlier work covering, somewhat autobiographically, the life and times surrounding a tenement block in New York City as the population (and the good times) ebb and flow. There’s a lot of pathos but also a lot of extremely good storytelling and illustration. Very grim, very good.

Travel by Bullet

Another book, same topic as the one I read just before it. These books can be a little samey but that is sort of what I like about them. Scalzi builds on the central conceit in a lot of interesting but ultimately different ways. Also this one takes place with Covid as having been a thing, and also billionaires are a despised class and I am here for it.

Murder by Other Means

This was a quick fun read, second in the Dispatcher series by Scalzi about a guy who legally murders people in a future where 999/1000 people who are murdered wake up, alive, in their own bed seconds later. Some interesting societal ripples come from this especially where crime is concerned. This one, now that we know the central point in this fictional universe, gets to dig more into how various dispatchers may do things a little off the books and the consequences of that.

The Extractionist

Usually I don’t love books that have an extensive virtual world component, but I had heard good things about this one and like this author and was not disappointed. Often my issue is that once you get into the realm of fantasy or non-real worlds things can just turn into “Well there are no more rules” which can sometimes make for interesting stories but not ones I tend to like. This book has mostly female characters and a story about what you do when someone gets “stuck” in a virtual world, and about the highly trained specialists, one in particular, who go get them. It was an interesting take on the topic, but not so gripping or thrillery that you couldn’t read it before bed.

How to Hike the AT

Got this book from a friend and while I wasn’t expecting it to be A Walk in the Woods (Bryson) I did expect a little more in the way of personal anecdata along with all the packing lists, post office lists, flora and fauna lists, potential injury lists and planning lists. Upshot: it might be useful (though outdated) for someone making a real AT hike plan, but for me, who was just curious, it was a little too dry.

Year Zero

A goofy romp based on the premise “What if aliens had been listening to our pop music for decades, loved it, and then needed to pay us for damages under copyright law?” It’s more than that, sometimes tries to be too funny but is often funny, and is just a great “Doesn’t take itself too seriously” kind of light science fiction tale.

Almost American Girl

This is a tough memoir about a young woman with a very difficult mom who gets uprooted (told she’s going on vacation and then just... doesn’t get to go home?) from her life in Korea to live in Alabama with her mom’s new husband who she’s never met. Her mom has her reasons--even though her behavior in this country would amount to child abuse--but there’s still a lot of sobbing and misery. While it’s well done and eventually works out okay, it wasn’t a story I needed to read. There’s a lot of trauma, for the first 80% of the book and if that is not your thing, it is very much this book’s thing.

Sensory: Life on the Spectrum

This is a collection of comics about being autistic. Like any collection, it’s a bit uneven--segments range from advice for allistic folks, to journeys of self-discovery, to metaphors about the autistic experience--but also engaging and informative. I’m someone who has always had some “spectrum-ish” traits and it was interesting for me to see a lot of different autistic people’s perspectives on some of those traits. This book was originally published out of a Kickstarter campaign and then found a major publisher. I learned stuff from reading it and you probably will too.

World Running Down

A neat combination of a desert salvager dystopian novel and a trans queer romance. Valentine’s been saving money for his transition by doing a series of somewhat sketchy salvage jobs with his only-sort-of-supportive work partner but then he meets Osric (an AI which usually lives in the network, ported somehow into a human body) who gives him the option of doing one big job and maybe getting everything he wants. There are a lot of interesting analogies drawn between the AI in the “wrong” body and Valentine also being in the wrong body which I think work fairly well. There are some very sweet parts to this story which takes place in a lot of places where the characters aren’t always comfortable. It’s incredibly well done and the type of book that you don’t see many of but I hope we’ll see more of.

A Fractured Infinity

The queer multiverse love story you’ve been waiting for. Maybe. This is a great debut novel that goes in some interesting directions with multiverse ideas while not getting bogged down in the hard science aspects of it. It’s all about a scientist who invents a machine that can traverse multiverses, and another version of that same guy who is NOT a scientist, who is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. At times funny and poignant, but not too terribly confusing (sometimes a problem with multiverse books). There’s a lot of longing and nostagia in it, which are well told. I enjoyed being along for this ride.

How to Keep House While Drowning

A friend suggested this since I’ve had a tough year or so. This author’s challenges are not my challenges--she has kids, and ADHD--but it’s good for people with anything that could be considered a challenge. It’s a pretty short and supportive self-help style book that has good strategies for just what it says on the cover. How to take care of yourself without shaming yourself that maybe you’re not taking care of your house the way you’d like to. I found it useful and it helped me take some concrete steps to remove some blockers to getting my house the way I wanted it.

On Whitcomb Hill

This was a gift from a writer friend about the 1840s farmhouse he purchased with his wife and thoughts about fixing it up, and the rural landscape, the people who had built the house and farmed the land. A lot going on it it and it’s hard for me to say what I might have thought about it if I didn’t know the writer but since I DID know the writer, I enjoyed getting to go along with him on this journey.

Paper Girls: The Complete Story

have a weird complaint about this book and that is that it was too heavy so it was hard to read in bed. It’s a compilation of six other books and I can understand wanting to have them in one volume but oy. I otherwise adored this compilation of the Paper Girl stories which involve a lot of complex time travel, meeting some of your future selves, and navigating friendships and relationships. There’s a lot going on and the illustrations really reward a close look.

A First Time For Everything

This book, which takes place in 1989, had a QR code in the front so I could listen to a soundtrack that would accompany it and it was just the greatest thing. I knew most of the songs and I read this book in one sitting. It’s an autobiographical story of a nerdy awkward kid who learns some things about himself and others during a month in Europe before high school. He endured a lot of bullying and some complicated family stuff before this trip and the things that happen to him (which are almost entirely true to his real life) help him learn and grow from it. I especially appreciated the afterword where we learned more about what his life was like after.

The God of Endings

Not my usual read, a vampire-adjacent tale of the undead and what it’s like to be a quasi-vampire with a conscience and a love for art. The lead character is immortal, or almost immortal and she tries to balance her love of being alive, of service work, of trying to understand her past, with the fear that there is an ending sneaking up on her. Beautifully written and evocative. Not too scary but with a lot of moody ambience.

The Twyford Code

This book was a fun take on the “total amateur finds hidden code and spends a lot of time tracking down clues while other people think they may be losing it” genre that I enjoy. It had an odd style that might not be for everyone, a series of audio recordings, transcribed by fallible software, that tell nearly the entire tale. You have to figure out what might be an error, or a misremembering, or a mislead. It’s not necessarily a mystery you’re going to puzzle out on your own, but one that has an ending that makes sense and is interesting. This one features a librarian character and keeps you guessing right up until the very last pages.

Lost in Shangri-La

An interesting story of a plane crash in New Guinea, the interactions between the crashees and the indigenous people, and their eventual rescue. While the author tries to mitigate some of the historical documents' racist and sexist language, there’s only so much he can do. A few characters who are well-documented historically get more attention than the Filipino doctors who did some serious hard work. Enjoyable but also flawed.

Antimatter Blues

Sequels to great scifi books can often be terrible. This one was not, it was really good. We see our “expendable” character Mickey from the last novel actually getting to sort some things out while no longer (or is he?) being expendable. There’s reference to the last book without a lot of reliance on it. A little less colony desperation. Tales of friendship. Quick-paced and just a little funny, I enjoyed this.

Critical Mass

This was a sequel to a book I liked decently but this one had a lot less charm and a lot more “This is how NFTs and blockchain are going to save civilization as we know it” (I paraphrase) type of discourse. There was also a lot of that specific “These people are tightly disciplined, there can be no mistakes!” rhetoric coupled with a hothead character who is ungovernable. Well written but rambley and ultimately not for me.

The Dispatcher

Scalzi is also a legend but one of the things I like about him is that his books are predictably up my street and enjoyable. This was a book with a simple premise: murdered people (unlike people who die in other ways) somehow disappear and wake up alive and naked in their beds. This creates an entire industry for murderers in situations where someone might die in another way. Those people being murdered means that they don’t die. Some neat wrinkles. Short, and more fun than a book about murder should be.

Growing Up Weightless

Ford is a legend in scifi circles apparently, but this book about a teenager growing up on the moon dreaming of the stars was just confusing to me. I guess if you sort of know what his thing is, you’d be expecting more of a book like this. The characters were strong and the lunar descriptions excellent but the plot not only (mostly) went nowhere, there were a few long divergences into virtual D&D-type gaming that seemed pointless and I was unclear what their purpose was. I read most of the book thinking “Am I missing something?”

Cold Water

I liked but did not love this book with a few interwoven story lines about a Europe (and world) falling apart and the people trying to get things done, track down the missing guy, and keep their heads above water. Getting crossed and double-crossed. Three female leads who felt somewhat interchangeable and were not well-described. Good plot that wrapped up in a way that was confusing (to me) with somewhat lightweight characters.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

This is a book about a young man and his girlfriend who go to live in Kiribati when she gets a job as a foreign aid worker. I picked it up because my former landlady used to live there and I was curious. Other than the title (racist, misleading and intended to be titillating?) this book had some interesting anecdotes but was ultimately, also racist. The author later “somehow” got a job at the World Bank and if you know that, you know a lot about this book.

Babel: An Arcane History

If you’ve ever had “burn it all to the ground” feelings and you’d like a book that also shared your deep hatred for empire and colonialism, but you also like novels, pick this up. A singular book. There’s magic in it, but not a lot, and it definitely doesn’t turn into one of those wizard vs. wizard things where it’s impossible to tell who has the stronger defenses. Long and deep with complex friendships and rivalries.

Cosplay, A History

I was really looking forward to this one since Andrew is a local pal. It is a very good, well-illustrated history--Liptak includes many of his own photos--of how cosplay was started and evolved. And for a field that can sometimes suffer from a lack of diversity, Andrew really does the work to find people from all walks of of the cosplay world and the book is better for it. A lot of interviews with subjects and some real deep looks at some aspects of the craft, from someone who is not just a writer but a cosplayer as well. I really appreciated this window into a world I don’t know that much about but have always admired from afar.

How to Live Safely in A Science Fictional Universe

I’ll read any book about a time machine. This was one of those books where I wasn’t sure if I didn’t get it or if it was bad at explaining itself. There are a lot of great poignant scenes in here, a lot of stuff about family and nostalgia, but they didn’t cohere into a narrative for me. Which was maybe the point but suddenly it was at the epilogue and I was like “Did it end?” Great premise. Very discursive. Like many books I don’t quite click with, maybe good for someone else?

M Is For Monster

A short YA-oriented graphic novel that looks like it’s going to be a Frankenstein story, but really isn’t. One of two sisters brings back her sister from a horrible science experiment accident. But she’s both the same person and also not the same person, and everyone tried to adjust to that. A short read, wonderfully illustrated.

To Each This World

This was a very long scifi novel about an extended first contact situation where there is one human “arbiter” who is the contact person with the new xenomorphs as they try to puzzle out their arrangement while at the same time searching for old generation ships previously thought to be lost. It’s a lively and interesting story with a few odd writing-style tics (odd conjugations that work different from what is normative in English) that were hard (for me) to ignore. This book went in to great detail in some respects and then other seemingly important plot points were glossed over. The ending came suddenly. This was a good nighttime book to read and parts of it were really well done but I’m not sure I would seek out more by this author.

Factory Summers

A graphic novel about the three summers Delisle spent working in a paper mill in Quebec while he figured out what to do with his life. I’ve liked his other graphic novels and this one may be my favorite just because there are a lot of weird backdrops and a lot going on in each panel. The book oddly goes briefly into his relationship with his father and doesn’t mention his mother (who he lives with) at all. In fact I’m not sure if there is a single line spoken by a woman in this book. Not a major deal, just something I noticed after the fact.

Leave The World Behind

An affluent White family is staying at a fancy AirBnB out on Long Island (I think, somewhere outside of NYC) and something happens to the NYC power grid (or worse, it’s unclear and there are a few red herrings) and the Black family who owns the house comes knocking on the door late at night seeking shelter. A very New Yorker-type story of the various kinds of unease you can have in uncertain times. Which was fine for what it was, but I felt like the book was teasing me with what was going on and then you never really figured it out. Not a big deal, it was still a good read but I thought it was one kind of book and it was really another. I was iffy on the story but it was beautifully written.

Everything Is an Emergency

A real-life story told by a working cartoonist about what it’s like to grow up with and be continually trying to manage obsessive compulsive disorder. I enjoyed how he talked a lot about the various ways in which his obsessions manifested themselves while also being clear that understanding what was happening didn’t make it stop happening. I also liked that there was no “one weird trick” to managing things, just a combination of things over time that helped. Exceptionally well done, well-illustrated, and interesting.

The Pallbearers Club

I remain not great at learning when to say when about books I am not enjoying. It is rare for me to say this, but I did not like this book. My best guess, since the author seems well-liked for his other works, is that it may have been an experiment that didn’t resonate with me. It’s told as a memoir in the sort of Lovecraftian “There is some kind of unbearable horror just outside of my perceptions” style (and in fact takes place in Rhode Island) but I disliked the main character and there was only one other real character who was... a bit of a cipher. I couldn’t tell if it was written with ironic cleverness or just cleverness that wasn’t working. Maybe good for others, bad for me.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Asexuality.

A short YA graphic novel illustrated by Will Hernandez to help teens (or whoever) learn the basics about asexuality including that there are some things that vary from person to person (do ace folks feel part of the queer community? Some yes and some no). A short book that packs a lot into it and represents a lot of opinions. Worth reading.

Flight Risk

Another in the “psychic booking agent” series from Priest who is usually more of a horror novelist. I like the Seattle scenes and locations in this book and the plot was just fine but I didn’t really warm up to the main character. Not a necessary part of enjoying the book, which I did, just an ongoing thing with this series.

Frozen in Time

A story about a plane that crashed in Greenland during WWII, all the planes that went to search for the survivors (many of which also crashed) and a modern day search for those downed planes, now under dozens of feet of ice. The book goes back and forth between the crashes and detailing who the men were--many of whom were sort of generic-seeming soldiers of the time period--and then the quest to raise money for the search in modern days. I was a little stressed out getting to know some of the soldiers and unsure if they would live or not. The author becomes overly involved in the modern-day search and invests a bunch of money in an expedition that seems kind of doomed. Did not go where I wanted it to--ultimately they had a lead but nothing concrete and the book ended oddly with them saying “We’ll probably find it next year” but a pretty interesting story.

Numb to This

It’s not this book, it’s me, I have some sort of built-in “This didn’t work for me” vibe about graphic novel memoirs by young women and I’m not sure why. This was a gorgeously illustrated (and not at all graphic) look at the human aftermath of a school shooting from the perspective of someone nearby but not right in it. She has a lot of normal reactions which she is worried are not normal. Part of the issue is that her normal reactions are... a lot of apathy and ennui (among other emotions) and it’s just hard to make those into a captivating story.

Funeral Train

I grabbed this off of the new book shelf, didn’t realize it was the second in a series of detective mysteries. I thought it might be about funeral train generally. Instead, it was about a small town train wreck during Dust Bowl times in Oklahoma. A great period piece if a little pat for my tastes. Nice descriptions and interesting characters including a lot of female characters. Very slow motion in a way that appealed.

Pushing Ice

Reynolds writes really well about cold places. I loved Permafrost but it was too short and I wanted a lot more. I didn’t love Revelation Space because it was a bit too much of an epic spacer and a bit too dull (for me, maybe it’s good for others). This book is what I wanted! Long and complex, but there’s enough momentum to keep it going. It’s about ice miners in space who see something odd, follow up on it, and it changes the course of humanity. Lots of good female characters.

Across the Sand

More sand! This was a years-later sequel to the earlier Sand stories and I liked this bunch a little bit better. It’s got more people from different parts of the world within the story, with different backgrounds who have some perspectives that were missing from the first book. Some nice resolutions, feels a bit more hopeful, an odd change of a few characters and less time at the Honey Hole (a sex worker establishment that Howey just didn’t do justice to) make for a better reading experience, but one that probably requires someone has read the earlier book.


From the guy who brought us Wool. A story of survival and sand diving in a dystopian future Colorado where much of the history of the place has been lost. There’s a discovery and a lot of people trying to make the most of it. Meanwhile revolution foments and life is unstable and dry. Gritty and gripping.

Across a Field of Starlight

A fun queer space romp, excellently drawn with an exploration of what it means to be “useful” in a time of struggle but also abundance. I was occasionally confused about what specifically was happening--there are a lot of various engagements since some of the aspects of this story are military--but absolutely worth it for a story with a female-presenting character who also has a beard.

Gender Queer

I was the first person to check this out of my library somehow. I’d only seen the “racy” parts when reading internet stories by haters. This book is, OF COURSE, much more complex and thoughtful. It’s a great look at what it means to be questioning gender and sexuality even when growing up in a totally supportive household. And the illustrations, done by eir sibling Phoebe are likewise top notch. I’m sorry I put off reading this book for so long and am happy to recommend it to anyone.