The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan

Three and a half to four stars. Read for the first time in 2007, and again in February 2021. Some things Robert Jordan writes too much of: What songs are called in different places where the characters travel People using made-up swear words unbearably earnestly How Aes Sedai can’t be trusted (they never lie, but…

Wrapping Up Summer Reading (Mini Reviews)

The Door, by Magda Szabó Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. The story of a strange, dysfunctional relationship between two strange women who are both uniquely intimate with and completely closed off to each other. I found it difficult at times, how deeply (and pretty frequently) they hurt each other, but the exploration…

Nine Rabbits, by Virginia Zaharieva

Four stars, read in August/September 2018. Practically incomprehensible at times, but at others, perfectly describes situations and emotions I’ve never seen articulated elsewhere. My perception of the protagonist kept changing in surprising ways, and I ended up making a lot of unexpected connections with her. I dream that I’m traveling to a seminar in Varna…

Mendelssohn is on the Roof, by Jiří Weil

Four and a half stars, read in July 2018. I’m tired of World War II stories, because their popularity in our culture seems saccharine, nationalistic, almost fetishistic—an excuse to pat ourselves on the back and fawn over the “glory days” of the “Greatest Generation”—while generally managing to sideline the sickeningly-relevant lessons we should be learning from…

Accident: A Day’s News, by Christa Wolf

Four stars, read in July 2018. Second stop on my literary backpacking trip through Europe: East Germany in the 1980s, the day after the Chernobyl accident. I’ve been wanting to read Christa Wolf for a while now, more especially Cassandra and Medea, but—once again—my choice was made for me by the limited collection of my local libraries. (For…

The Storm, by Margriet de Moor

Four stars, read in July 2018. I picked up this book for my first stop on the Reader’s Room Backpacking Across Europe Summer Reading Challenge, as I flew into the Amsterdam airport. I don’t tend to read disaster stories, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book if Utah public libraries had a better selection…

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Four stars, read in May 2018. Good book, well-written, poignant, frustrating, a little heartbreaking, with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, but I didn’t care for P.J. Ochlan, who does irritating pseudo-falsetto for female characters’ voices. (Given that I already didn’t like Jay, the character he was narrating, I think…

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

First read summer 2010, read again summer 2018. Approximately four stars. Oh, Harry Dresden. I still really enjoyed this, but the way I read is so different now from eight years ago, when I first read it—fresh off the heels of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Becky Chambers, Garth Nix, Rat Queens, Saga, and all the other incredibly…

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Four stars, read in January 2018. For most of the book I was going to give it five stars, but it seems to divide itself into two sections (before her suicide attempt and after), and I felt much more strongly about the first section. I loved it, I related closely to upsetting amounts of it, I…

New Volumes of My Favorite Comics

Saga, Vol. 8, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Four stars. Excellent as always, less robot penis than usual, so plenty of good news. For the bad news, in chapter 47: oh my god, Brian K. Vaughan, no, absolutely fucking not. That is too far. Such excruciatingly graphic sexual violence against women is fetishistic, and…

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Four stars, read in February 2018. I was drawn into this hard, once it got going. The audio narration is excellent, but gives no indications of the physical format—sections that are printed in italics, occasional illuminating “chapter” titles (they’re not really chapters but what do I call them?)—so the book wasn’t really working until I…

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in June/July 2017. I loved the premise and the atmosphere of the post-Arthurian setting, and found the first half of this book very engaging. It follows characters who live in sort of medieval villages of Britons and Saxons, and although no one seems to remember any specifics, we know it’s been a…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Four stars, read from October to November 2017. I decided to read this book right now because of some TV show we were watching recently, and I’m hoping that by the end of this post I’ll be able to remember what it was. A character must have made a reference to the opening lines of…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…

November Mini Reviews

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds. Five stars. Oh, wow, I loved everything about this. The premise is such a cool one, with the elevator and the chronological ghosts; the verse is skillful and adds visually to the story; and the protagonist’s voice is just so painfully young and real. God, if only we could…

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in October 2017. The Remains of the Day is absolutely masterful. I was constantly impressed by the subtlety, the way the protagonist’s voice is so careful and forthcoming that it didn’t occur to me to question his accuracy, until suddenly the perspective would widen and I’d realize what he’d been leaving out. Mr….

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Four stars, read in July 2017. The most consistent theme of my experience reading this book was oh my god, if she said this ten years ago, what would she say now? I have minor differences with Jacoby, but her premise is clearly, demonstrably correct: in whatever our current age is called, almost nothing in…

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Four stars, or maybe 3.5, read in September 2017. I haven’t actually spoken to many people about Hillary Clinton, because I try not to for my own sanity. But when I have, and when I’ve read articles and books about her, they have almost never—the “almost” might not even be necessary—been entirely reasonable. Hillary has said…

Tonoharu, by Lars Martinson

Four stars, read in March 2017, then again in August. I didn’t write what I thought about each book as I finished it, so I can only think of the trilogy as a whole—but you really have to read all three, so it’s just as well. The story is written a bit confusingly; the two…

Slade House, by David Mitchell

Four stars, read in August 2017. I love the format of this book, the way each section is told from the perspective of one of the house’s victims. It felt especially intimate that way, making the story personal and a little emotional as well as creepy. This is the sixth of Mitchell’s books that I’ve…

Autofiction, by Hitomi Kanehara

Four stars, read in July 2017. I’ve spent a good twenty minutes now trying to track down the article that made me first want to read Hitomi Kanehara, and I’m frustrated that I can’t find it. All I remember is that the writer was (I think) a Japanese American woman, possibly an author herself? And…

How to Fake a Moon Landing, by Darryl Cunningham

Four stars, read in March 2017. Three and a half stars, maybe, but I don’t mind rounding up to balance out all the reviews that hate it way more than I think is warranted. (Though I do wonder, since this is yet another instance of books titled “how to __” which do not in any…

Japanese Haiku from Peter Pauper Press

Four stars, read in July 2017. I couldn’t believe my luck to find these three small, beautiful old volumes at my local used bookstore last night—particularly because under their faded, torn jackets the same lovely pattern has been preserved on the hardcover. Rather than reviews, my posts about haiku are always just a collection of…

So Far This Year (Plus Mini Reviews)

This was meant to be a Top Ten Tuesday post, but I’m about a week and a half late and deciding to share it anyway. As usual, putting together a mid-year list of the best books I’ve read makes me think that my end-of-year list will be impossibly long—although admittedly, there are a few books…

Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde

Four stars, read in March and April 2017. I have meant to read Audre Lorde for so long, and now that I have, I see the irony of it having been her prose that I read first, and not her poetry. Poetry was everything to Lorde, not just a form of art but a framework…