Friday, January 12, 2018

Ninefox Gambit

Vocabulary. After reading a favorable review of the second novel in the Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee, I had a choice to make: read the first, or plunge into the middle book as a standalone. Since I don’t read much science fiction, I decided to start at the beginning with a novel titled, Ninefox Gambit, and I’m glad I did. It took me fifty or more pages to get comfortable with the vocabulary and in trying to understand the world Lee was creating. Protagonist Kel Cheris is an unconventional math whiz warrior working for an entity called the hexarchate and is sent to a star fortress to quell a heretical rebellion that’s using an unconventional calendar. Cheris teams up with a disgraced general named Shuos Jedao and carries out a complicated mission that ends with a cliffhanger to set up the second book in the series. If any of this appeals to you, leap right in. While I started reading this novel I was skeptical and ready to give up after a few dozen pages. I pushed through and now look forward to the rest of the trilogy. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Ninefox Gambit from

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales

Luscious. Mystery lovers are those readers most likely to enjoy the six succinct and luscious short stories in a collection by P. D. James titled, Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales. James wrote with great skill, and in each of these stories, she explores criminality and evil with precision. I savored each of these stories, separating them by a day or two to prolong the experience. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Sleep No More from

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism

Optimism. Dan Rather has written a book of reflective essays titled, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism. Often sentimental in tone, Rather reminds readers of what makes us strong. Any reader looking for a primer on good citizenship can look to this book for hope and guidance. Despite all the expressed concerns about divisions in American society, Rather expresses optimism that we continue to share common values and our patriotism can draw us together. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase What Unites Us from

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

Authenticity. Most readers will pick up a copy of the book titled, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, because the author, former Vice President Joe Biden, is a familiar figure. Those readers who finish the book are likely to feel that they spent this reading time in a fruitful way, coming away with a deeper understanding of character, courage, family and the optimism that leads us to hope. Joe Biden is one of the most genuine and authentic individuals in public life, and his emotions appear unvarnished on every page of this book about the last year in the life of his son, Beau, who died of brain cancer. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Promise Me Dad from

Her Body and Other Parties

Pick. Pick any reason to read Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of short stories titled, Her Body and Other Parties, but read it. If you’re a man, Machado considers us a different species, and she may well be right. If you’re a woman, Machado articulates a variety of topics relating to women that will either resonate or clash with your views and experiences. If you enjoy finely written prose, Machado provides that in every story. If you are comfortable with post-modern literature, Machado’s experiments here will interest you. I added this book to my reading list because it was a National Book Award finalist. Having read it, I understand why. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Her Body and Other Parties from

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Progress. The second novel by Joe Ide to feature private investigator Isaiah Quintabe is titled, Righteous. As expected, there’s progress in IQ’s personal and professional life and an interesting case that leads IQ and Dodson from East Long Beach to Las Vegas. The gangsters are well developed in this installment, and fans of Ide’s debut novel are those readers most likely to enjoy this installment as we look forward to the next. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Righteous from

Racing the Devil

Complex. Readers who enjoy crime fiction are those most likely to enjoy reading the 19th Ian Rutledge novel by Charles Todd titled, Racing the Devil. Slow and steady exposition takes the action from a promise made by English officers to meet again if they survive World War I to accidents and murder back home in England. As Inspector Rutledge delves into the complex case, secrets are revealed and the truth is uncovered. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Racing the Devil from

Turtles All the Way Down

Anxiety. Not many books provide an opportunity for conversation about mental illness especially among young adults. John Green tackles the topic of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders in his novel titled, Turtles All the Way Down. Protagonist Aza Holmes is a finely drawn character with OCD. The friendships and resilience that are presented in this novel will resonate with many young readers. While Green tugged at my heartstrings in his earlier writing, this time out I found the sentiments fell a bit flat. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Turtles All the Way Down from

Strange Weather

Compact. Fans of intelligent horror fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy the four novellas in a collection by Joe Hill titled, Strange Weather. Each of the four stories in this book is imaginative, and provides the kind of spine tingling sensation that horror readers enjoy. Like the four seasons, these novellas are different but part of a whole. Each is tightly written and the compact form seemed to me to intensify the story. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Strange Weather from

The Ghosts of Galway

Revenge. The darkest novel yet to feature protagonist Jack Taylor is titled, The Ghosts of Galway, by Ken Bruen. Having failed suicide and needing cash, Jack takes on a job as a security guard. His boss tempts him into tracking down a heretical book, and Jack yields to the temptation. What stirs Jack in this outing is the pleasure of revenge against all forms of ghosts, and the violence that follows seems to stimulate Jack back to life. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Ghosts of Galway from

Fresh Complaint

Unsettled. There are ten short stories in the first collection by Jeffrey Eugenides titled, Fresh Complaint. Eight of the stories have been published before, so may be familiar to some readers. Fans of Eugenides’ novels will recognize both prose style and characters in these stories, along with a mix of humor and quirky behavior. The characters in these stories are often unsettled in their lives as they balk at adjusting to change. Many characters are looking for something beyond the horizon, and Eugenides leads them and us to that other place with great skill. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Fresh Complaint from

Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy

Essays. Setting, mood and context can change over the course of every few paragraphs in Michael Perry’s finely written book of essays titled, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. Humor in one sentence leads to poignancy in the next, and on to wisdom in the following paragraph. The mundane becomes meaningful when reflected upon by a good writer with great skill, and that describes Perry to a tee. Philosophy is a worthy pursuit and in this effort it is carried out close to the ground and not in the clouds. Readers looking for a chance to smile, nod and reflect will find plenty of reasons to do each of those while reading this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Montaigne in Barn Boots from

The Quantum Spy

Ambiguity. A new novel titled, The Quantum Spy, by Washington Post journalist David Ignatius offers fans of espionage novels great reading pleasure. Both China and the United States are funding research into superfast computers that will break any code quickly. The US program has a mole and the CIA is investigating that problem while playing a multilayered game with the Chinese. Like the best spy novels, this one contains high doses of ambiguity and uncertainty, focused on what loyalty means and the fluidity of truth in the world of espionage. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Quantum Spy from

You Can't Spell America Without Me

Overdosed. Anyone who’s entertained by Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump should enjoy reading (or listening to) a new book by Baldwin and Kurt Anderson titled, You Can’t Spell America Without Me. I found some humor in this book, but realized pretty quickly than I am entertained better by this impersonation in small doses. Taking it all in at once was less entertaining and more overwhelming. Readers who can pace themselves can avoid such overdosing. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase You Can’t Spell America Without Me from

Going Into Town

Poignant. Fans of Roz Chast’s New Yorker cartoons are those readers most likely to enjoy her poignant and funny love letter to Manhattan titled, Going into Town. Chast grew up in Brooklyn, blossomed after moving to Manhattan, and accepted parenthood after moving to the suburbs. This book began as a guide to New York City for her daughter. As expected, the book is funny and sweet. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Going Into Town from