Two thumbs up for The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu. Science fiction.
“Aladdin” meets Snow Crash, with a brother and sister as the leads—a cyborg monkey and a beautiful human travel guide—narrated by a friendly piece of alien intelligence who is trying so very hard. Among all the books I read this year, this one brought me the most pure joy.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. Literature.
An amoral rich girl who is used to living the high life with her playboy father, likes and respects the sophisticated Anne very much. She just doesn’t want her as a stepmother…. This is a very short psychological novel that might be insufferable if the main character was without self-awareness and perspicacity.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Navigating Fox by Christopher Rowe. Fantasy.
A delightfully, matter-of-factly weird novella narrated by a Navigating Fox—a sentient fox who can travel mystical “Silver Roads” through space, and lead others along them. Sentient animals are common in his world, but he is the only sentient fox and he wishes to know why he was made. Unfortunately, he is occupied with defending himself against the accusation of having led a party of explorers to their deaths.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Forged by Blood by Ehigbor Okosun. Young adult fantasy.
A better-than-average YA fantasy with a powerful heroine and a wonderful, detailed West Africa-inspired setting. Unfortunately, it was sold as an adult book. This matters, because it sets reader expectations. Forged by Blood, while very well-written, is a fast-paced, first-person present-tense adventure coming-of-age story complete with love triangle: in other words, it hits all the YA notes.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara. Poetry.
I don’t have any expertise in poetry, so all I can say is “that was wonderfully surreal” and also “I loved it.” These are fairly allusive poems, so a general broad knowledge will help your enjoyment substantially—especially knowing even a bit about New York City. Here are some approachable lines, from “Yesterday Down at the Canal”:
that’s an amusing thought
how can anyone be more amusing than oneself
how can anyone fail to be
can I borrow your forty-five
I only need one bullet preferably silver
if you can’t be interesting at least you can be a legend
(but I hate all that crap)
… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Shanghai Immortal by A. Y. Chao. Historical fantasy.
A juvenile half-vampire, half-fox-spirit with lots of feelings and low impulse control is sent from Immortal Shanghai to 1930’s Mortal Shanghai on a mission, the reasons for which already escape me. I’m not sure I ever understood them, to be honest: this book is not strong on plot, but it does succeed as a fun character-driven coming-of-age story.… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for Free Time: The History of an Elusive Ideal by Gary S. Cross. Nonfiction.
A history of the Western world’s relationship with non-work time, up until the present. Shockingly interesting—the kind of book you keep thinking about. I don’t think I would have read it had it been from an economist’s, a philosopher’s, or a psychologist’s perspective; but the thing that historians have which so often those in other disciplines do not is a much-needed sense of perspective.… >> 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