Book Review: We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


We Play Ourselves is a wry, spicy critique of the pursuit of artistic fame on two different American coasts. Watching the narrator’s past and present derailing creates a metafictional experience, as we also gain pleasure from knowing the private and public details of her life, all her failures and fantasies, complicit in a facsimile of voyeurism that is just… really, really smart. Darkly funny, but also resonant. Made me want to go to L.A. without a plan.



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Book Review: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’ve read Tennessee Williams’ breakout masterpiece many times, and even taught it to high school students for a couple years. But it’s been a while, and I wanted to see if it was still good. If possible, I think it’s even gotten better. The fragility of hope, the way regret will always find us, the illusions we believe… it’s all here. A pillar of American Theater.



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Book Review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Becky Chambers brings us a beautiful, gentle little book in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The novel envisions a lovely future where human beings have figured it all out and sentient robots are living in their own natural utopia. The descriptions are gorgeous and the book provides a nurturing space for all of us who need to take a moment to remember who we are and why we’re here. It’s a fun solarpunk meditation walk, filled with humor, contemplation, and the earnest hijinks of a delightful robot named Mosscap. Also, this book will really, really make you want to have some good tea and to upgrade your bedroom linens and pillows.

Sidenote: As someone who has also read The Wild Robot, I strongly feel that Mosscap and Roz are related.



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Book Review: The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Changeling is a stunning piece of modern horror. Victor LaValle pulls off a feat that somehow blends humor, terror, the incorporation of fairytales, social commentary, a New York City setting, and a narrative voice so genuine that you can’t help but trust it implicitly. There are so many allegorical levels at work here, it’s dizzying. It’s a story about parenthood, race, gender, belief, technology, evil, and dogged hope. A fascinating read.



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Book Review: Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Incredibly meticulous, Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is almost intimidating in its level of detail at first. But the deeper I sank into this story, the more appreciative I became of that detail. The way that Lansing painstakingly analyzed every crew member’s diary, interviewed surviving members, and researched everything he could possibly get his hands on regarding Shackleton’s voyage makes this book the immersive masterpiece that it is. You feel every moment. Reading it left me in awe at the capacity of human beings. It moved me to tears. What a book. What a story. What an absolute miracle.



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Book Review: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Book Cover

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


How High We Go in the Dark is structurally fascinating. It reminded me of the way family stories get passed down, and we end up remembering names from someone else’s memory because the names were important… even if we don’t really grasp why or to whom. We learn about important moments from lives that never touched ours, but yet treasure those seeds of information and carry them with us, believing they’re a part of our story, too. (Does that make sense?) What I’m driving at is Nagamatsu’s intentional, recursive setting down and picking up of themes in different time periods, and different lives, all ones that are struggling through the great challenges of living on planet earth. This novel imagines the fractal-patterned fallout of grief on a global scale as it manifests in individual experiences. It’s surprising, timely, and affecting.



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Book Review: Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Star Eater by Kerstin  Hall

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Star Eater comes out blazing from page one with great worldbuilding that is both transportative and familiar. The story reads as a metaphorical exploration of inherited power and harm. While exploring those themes, Hall brings us interesting imagery, political intrigue, and a quest-driven plot along the way.



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Book Review: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’ve been a huge admirer of the late Ursula K. Le Guin ever since I read The Left Hand of Darkness and my mind was never the same. How lucky we are that some of her best writing advice is preserved in this volume! It’s a largely no-nonsense guide that distills writing into its most basic elements–she presents a deep dive on things like description, verb tenses, and point of view with plenty of examples and exercises to go with each section. But my favorite part was where she waxed a bit philosophical about how and why these nuts and bolts fit into the larger magic of story. There’s also a heaping helping of patented Le Guin sassiness and I loved that.



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Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Rebecca Roanhorse brings us a gorgeously drawn fantasy world inspired by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas in Black Sun. Everything from clothing to languages to rituals pulls from Roanhorse’s deep study of these cultures, woven together with a healthy dose of new magic. Exploring this part of the world and time in history from an epic fantasy angle is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. I want to walk around in the world of the book–it’s a powerhouse of sensory description, absolutely begging for a film adaptation. Xiala was my favorite character, and anyone who knows me and also reads this book will understand that she’s an obvious choice.



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Book Review: Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Little Eyes is a fascinating science fiction read from a powerhouse writer. It’s an eerie, prescient, and compelling look at how intimate connections with strangers are facilitated by technology. The structure of the novel is in vignettes connected by the overall idea, but in different iterations. What I find most interesting about the narration is Schweblin’s unflinching view and refusal to moralize, even while plumbing the uncomfortable crevices of the human psyche. If you’ve ever wondered if a furby could be evil, if the thought of smart home devices makes you queasy, or if you’ve ever bonded with a tamagotchi on a different level, this book will resonate with you.



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