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« December, 2023 »
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.