Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong. Science fiction.
A Hunger Games knockoff with a 90’s cyberpunk movie vibe. An ambitious failure of a book. I had fun reading it only because I kept reminding myself not to think about anything. So I don’t regret the time I spent reading it, but I’ll also say: you can do better.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament by Anne Renaud. Children’s picture book.
A delightfully-illustrated picture book – “a fictional tale with a helping of truth” – about a real historical figure, George Crum, a Black/Native man who was a successful restauranteur in the mid-1800’s (that’s the true part) who, while dealing with a fussy customer, invents the potato chip (that’s the “tall tale” part).… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others by T. M. Luhrmann. Anthropology.
It’s really nice to be astonished by something different. This book is—stay with me here—an anthropologist’s analysis of the cross-cultural human ability to make the supernatural or spiritual feel present in our lives by using certain practices (for example: ritual, prayer, meditation, spiritual reading); and about how this is an actual skill, which some people struggle with, and some people do quite naturally, and which can be improved with practice.… >> Read more
Thumbs up (with caveats) for Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Psychology.
A short book. This is Junger’s rather diffuse “theory of human satisfaction” interweaving threads of PTSD, belonging, and how humans frequently feel better during hardship. This was an interesting book which made me think, so if that is its goal, it has succeeded. As a work of rigorous intellectual study, it fails utterly.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The English Understand Wool by Helen Dewitt. Short story.
This was a weird one, but I enjoyed it a lot. How not to give anything away? Let us say it is a story of a young woman’s very satisfying use of her agency.
One would necessarily be in London for at least six weeks. Claridge’s had installed, at her request, a Yamaha Clavinova with two sets of headphones in the place previously occupied by the television and the furniture which supported it.
… >> Read more
Thumbs down for The Curse of Saints by Kate Dramis. Romantic fantasy.
Well, I’ll start with the good part: Dramis can put words together pretty well. Unfortunately, there are too many of them and they aren’t doing the right things. The main character is one-dimensional (being angry and grief-ridden does not a character make), and her love interest is supposed to be dark and brooding, I guess?… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for The City Inside by Samit Basu. Science fiction.
A very-near-future science fiction novella set in Delhi, in which a Reality Manager (read: celebrity social media producer) and a rich family’s black sheep get pulled into multiple conspiracies. Reading this reminded me of Snow Crash more than any other book: it is dense with invention, utterly plausible in its view of the future, and bleakly hilarious due to that very plausibility.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Proposition by Judith Ivory. Historical romance.
Gender-swapped Pygmalion with a genial ratcatcher as a hero and an anxious, not-traditionally-attractive spinster linguist as a heroine. Extremely well-written and unique; the characters are difficult and imperfect in ways that make them feel like real people. Five stars, with a three-fourths of a star docked for the eyeroll-inducing ending and the rest of the star gone for the (unfortunately necessary) pain of trying to convey dialect in text.… >> Read more