Thumbs up for Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee. Science fiction.

If you love Leckie’s Ancillary Justice books, you should read Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy. But don’t read Revenant Gun until you’ve read the first two books; it will make zero sense. To be honest, I have read the first two and while I (mostly) always understood what was going on in Revenant Gun, I sometimes had no idea why.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. Literature.

By all rights I should have hated this book: modern American family dramas being #2 on my “nope” list. So I suppose it’s testament to Anne Tyler’s skills that I picked it up and stayed with it. The structure–discovery of events via the points of view of different characters, who focus on different things–was pleasingly handled.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray. Science.

I thought this would be pretty, and potentially informative. I didn’t think it would be hilarious. Enjoy it yourself, leave it on your coffee table for your friends, and give it to every kid you know.

The base of conventional nail polish is a nitrocellulose lacquer dissolved in acetone.

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Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Science fiction.

I can imagine how this would have made an excellent and terrifying radio show. As a book, it’s pretty tedious. Not that it doesn’t have some moments, and I do generally enjoy Wells’s writing, but a lot of this book collapses down to “masses of people rushing to and fro across the countryside, with every town and village itemized.” (Do the inhabitants of Chipping Barnet get a special thrill when they are stomped on by aliens?) I’m not sure I would have stuck with it except that (a) the edition I was reading (NYRB) had marvelous chapter-heading illustrations by Edward Gorey and (b) the introduction I read in a different edition (Barnes & Noble Classics) reflected a fascinating, cringeworthy light on Wells’s technocrat agenda, and I was curious to see how that played out in the book.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Naked in Death by J. D. Robb. Science fiction romantic suspense.

This is going to be one of those reviews in which it seems I didn’t enjoy reading the book. That is not the case. It was an immensely fun page-turner, which I plowed through in three sittings. Nora Roberts knows how to tell an engaging story.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Literature.

A young man–worldly and introspective relative to the society in which he lives, but that’s not saying much–is engaged to be married to just the right girl. Then her cousin, who is actually worldly, shows up from Europe…. Sometimes I think reading classic literature is hardly different from reading fantasy or science fiction.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It by Druin Burch. History.

If the history of medicine, in the specific sense of “things we take to feel better”–from opium to thalidomide, penicillin to aspirin–sounds at all interesting to you, read this book. That won’t apply to most of you, of course.… >> Read more

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