Thumbs up for Circe by Madeline Miller. Fantasy.
I liked Miller’s first book The Song of Achilles enough that her new book, Circe, immediately went to the top of my read queue. In it, she lets Circe—a witch who was Odysseus’s lover in part of the Odyssey—tell her own story. A knowledge of Greek myths might add something, but I don’t think it’s necessary.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. Literature.
An internal tale of first love–that sounds tedious, doesn’t it? Kudos to Aciman that he gets you into Elio’s head so quickly and absolutely that you can’t even protest: No, I don’t care about your cliched troubles, kid. Every emotion and turn of the heart is so precisely observed that the book makes its own complete, mesmerizing reality, essentially immune to criticism. … >> Read more
Thumbs up for Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Horror.
I don’t read horror, generally, but I came across a copy of this with the coolest cover and…I’m shallow. Also, I am rather fond of the name “Rosemary” as it’s the name of one of my heroines. And maybe there’s something in the name, because I can fully believe that my Rosemary, if laid up during pregnancy, would also (as does R.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Why Be Catholic?: Understanding Our Experience and Tradition by Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos. Religion.
Read for character research. I don’t usually read research books cover to cover, and therefore don’t review them, but this one was slim. I don’t think the authors present a convincing case for answering the title question in the positive; they are too fair-minded and honest, never discussing an ideal without also talking about its failures of execution.… >> Read more
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.
… >> Read more
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