I had a little grin on my face from the moment I cracked this book open, and it just got wider with every page I read. This is certainly a bit of a weird one (it is not a memoir, you see, but a mem-noir), and I have no idea if there is a true word in it after the prologue, but it was a damn fine time, nevertheless.
I first read this book at the beginning of this year, and I had to sit on this recommendation for a very long time. This is a hard book. It will not leave you with a smile. But it is a book that (at least for me) so perfectly fits this moment in time, that captures in its strange events and unsettling prose something so profound about the experiences of the last few years, that I cannot help but want to read it again.
Alix Harrow has been one of my favorite fantasy authors ever since she blew me away with The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and this latest bit of wonder was everything that she's shown me I can hope for in her writing. Sweet, sad, gorgeous prose, and hopeful in a way that I continue to crave and be grateful for, this is the perfect companion for a chilly winter afternoon.
Weeks after finishing this collection of essays, I still feel wildly unqualified to offer anything resembling a "review". But weeks later, I'm still thinking about each of them, about the ways in which they asked me to re-assess some part of how I have thought about Jewish culture and history, and about how grateful I am for the education.
"Breezy" and "delightful" might seem odd words to describe a story that mostly concerns itself with the rise of a fascistic regime on a small (imaginary) island whose residents worship the written word, but somehow Mark Dunn manages to make this epistolary novel exactly that. Powerfully relevant and quite amusing, all at the same time.
Gods, but I love the characters that Tamsyn Muir creates, and the way she is able to pack so much wit, world-building and biting humor into every page. Harrow is every bit the equal of Gideon, though their temperaments be ever so different, and I devoured this puzzle box of a story in a single weekend.
I love it when a book really surprises me. This story of a matriarch's last day started out feeling like it might be just another breezy read in the vein of Crazy Rich Asians, but ended up as one of the better meditations on family, loss, and the cost of our choices (the ones that we remember and the ones we try to forget) that I've had the pleasure to stumble across in a long while.
When N.K. Jemisin calls something "awesome", you know you're in for a ride. And this was a ride. Starting with building blocks that might seem all-too-familiar, Johnson twists her story of mobsters, assassins and the tense, racially-charged whirlwind of 1940s New York into a shape that kept defying my expectations (in the very best of ways).
One more for the "this can't possibly be a real story, how have I never heard of this story???" genre, this account of the women who helped to beat the German U-Boats in World War 2 reads, at times, more like an historical thriller than a history. But, no matter the twists and turns: every word is true. Probably.
Heir to the Empire is thirty years old this year, and somehow, the trilogy that it kicks off is still one of the best Star Wars stories ever written. All the adventure and intrigue, all the lightsabers and Jedi and space battles you could want, with one of the best villains in the Star Wars canon, new or old. There's a reason Zahn has kept writing Grand Admiral Thrawn, even in the new Star Wars universe: he's an all-time great.
Books of this size (and on this topic) all tend to end up with the same labels. Towering. Monumental. Sheehan's examination of the Vietnam War through the lens of John Paul Vann is all of those things, and also still so tremendously relevant. As an examination of American hubris and the ways in which it led, over and over, to tragedy and to destruction, A Bright, Shining Lie needs to be read now as much as it ever did.
Every historian of the American Revolution seems to write a history that claims to better represent it than any history which has come before. Whether Ellis succeeds in that goal is for each reader to decide, but he does present a well-crafted narrative of the 10 years that saw a group of 13 disparate states triumph over the British Empire, and manages to avoid the pitfalls of over-analyzing battles or over-lionizing the men who made that triumph a reality.
Something in the reading of this book feels very akin to taking a long walk with a friend. Stretches where the mind wanders, fixating on a pile of logs or run-down railroad tracks. Sharp bursts of conversation, musings on the Ottoman Empire and coefficients of economic inequality (and, yes, the meaning of freedom), filling the space until the silence creeps back in. Again and again, until we come to the end.
Ruth Ware is writing the kinds of murder mysteries that I think Dame Agatha herself would enjoy, and One By One is another excellent addition to the genre. Ware expertly builds the tension chapter by chapter (and body by body), weaves in just enough misdirection to keep you guessing, and finishes with a solution that is both intricate and well-constructed. Perfect for a long, lazy weekend.
I inhaled this book over the course of one afternoon. Masood balances the intertwining narratives of a relatively-privileged Pakistani immigrant and the far more painful story of a young woman fleeing war-torn Iraq, and through both of these stories, he weaves in one perfectly-rendered detail of life as an immigrant in modern America after another. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, when it isn’t both at once.
Anderson calls the history of the CIA’s early years “a tragedy in three acts,” and by the time I finished this incredibly well-crafted work, I could not have agreed more. Masterfully blending the stories of four men who were instrumental in the agency’s founding with an overarching narrative about the missed opportunities and failures of American foreign policy after the end of World War II, this tragedy is a must-read.
Skinless men crawl from fissures in the coal-seamed earth. A nameless monster, half deer and half... something else, stalks the woods. And two queer teens try desperately to remember something that the whole of their quiet little town wants them to forget. Terrifying, tender, and heartbreaking in equal measure, Machado’s latest is a gorgeously illustrated testament to her mastery of the macabre.