Thumbs up for The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K. J. Charles. Fantasy.
I suppose it’s possible K.J. Charles might write something I didn’t love, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Charm of Magpies series is a bit better than this one, simply by dint of being more developed, so if you haven’t read her books yet, start there. Then, when you need more, read this.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman. Memoir.
A magnificent book. Ironically and wonderfully – since it’s about Hoffman’s struggle to express herself, and find her identity, in English – Lost in Translation is more gorgeously and elegantly written than most books by native speakers. There were so many passages I wanted to copy out.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Baking with Kafka by Tim Gauld. Comics.
Book-related cartoons. Received for Christmas, flipped open, immediately began laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.
The publisher has a PDF with some sample pages here.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe. Fantasy.
A typical fantasy quest story with atypically excellent writing. The main character, Crow, a thief, is a beautifully-drawn combination of neurotic, clever, avaricious, devout (in his own way…), snarky, and just plain funny. If you like fantasy with a memorable first-person narrator, don’t miss this. (One caveat: the female characters are all given extremely short shrift, but I don’t know if that’s typical in the author’s novels or if this book is an outlier.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones. Nonfiction/writing.
The problem of a collection of essays and speeches by one person on a single topic is immediately obvious: the content becomes repetitive. The story of Diane Wynne Jones’s early childhood is now ingrained in my mind, because I’ve read it five or six times. But it’s unfortunate that that is what I now first think of when I think of Reflections, because the non-repetitive bits are filled with such wisdom and cleverness and humor.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. History.
No, I am not one of those people who reads histories of Rome so I can point at current political events and say “See, this is just like that!” Comparing, say, ~240 years of American power to ~2,000 years of Roman power shows a problematic understanding of scale.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Fox’s Tower and Other Stories by Yoon Ha Lee. Science fiction and fantasy short stories.
I’ve raved about Lee’s work here before and will do so again. If you’re not ready to commit to his bizarre and wonderful trilogy about starship warfare based around calendars, try The Fox’s Tower. Most of the stories are at most a page or two, poetic and strange and warm.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Paperbacks from Hell: the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. Literary history.
When I requested an advance reader’s copy of this from the publisher, my expectations were low. It might have been a boring catalog of authors and publishers. Or it might have centered around mocking old horror paperback cover art, while being light on historical detail.… >> Read more