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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Book Review: Twin Peaks – The Final Dossier

Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark Frost

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I am a Twin Peaks superfan, so please understand that this was always destined to be an automatic five star. To that, I will add that this book is beautifully designed, extremely fun, and just satisfying enough that I felt I found some answers to what happened after Twin Peaks: The Return, but enough mystery was preserved that it’s still deliciously perplexing. (Also, the Margaret Coulson file made me cry!)



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Book Review: Seek You by Kristen Radtke

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is phenomenally drawn, researched and told. Reading Seek You is a deeply personal act. As Kristen Radtke explores what it means to feel alone, her pages hold a mirror up to our own secret longings and darkest hours. The book asks important questions. It gives intensely challenging reasons to rethink and reimagine the ways we choose to carry our own cycles of loneliness. Radtke delivers a fascinating look at American culture and the human heart.



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Book Review: The Babysitter by Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is a fascinating, deeply disturbing study on how childhood trauma impacted two lives: one who went on to commit horrific violence, and another who went on to become a loving parent with a happy life. The latter of these is Liza Rodman, who recounts her childhood in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the heart of the 1960’s. The former was her sometime babysitter, Tony Costa-a man who became nothing less than a demon, plagued by violent impulses and devoid of remorse. The way these two real-life narratives intertwine (Rodman’s in first person, Tony’s in a meticulously researched third person from journalist Jennifer Jordan) is engrossing and horrifying. It reminds us that evil sits side by side with the benign, and that we should always trust our instincts when we feel that something… or someone… is off.



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Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I decided to read Wuthering Heights for the first time, with the determination to see it through no matter what. It is a punishing read, and really a horrible experience emotionally. But my goal in reading it was to understand why it’s a classic, and that did come to me by the end. It’s a book about evil, and a family bound together by cruel intimacies and domestic violence infecting multiple generations of the Earnshaw/Linton houses. The haunting that occurs is the echoing legacy of that harm. Love, in this novel’s context, is an obsessive, all-encompassing passion that easily trips over to rage–for these characters, they are one and the same. Tenderness and hurt occur in the same spaces, haunting the Heights with trauma.



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Book Review: Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Once There Were Wolves

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Once There Were Wolves is a masterclass in narrative tension. Charlotte McConaghy weaves mysteries together like poetry, and pulls those threads tight. This book simply smolders. The characters are compelling, each dealing with legacies of violence in their own way. There are plenty of wolves to be seen, and they are described in a transfixing, soul-stopping way. The wolf has been seen throughout history as the beautiful horror that lurks in the woods, and the book lets that concept out to play. How do we reconcile these twin capacities: the one to awe and the one to kill? That question is for wolves, for love, for human progress, and it’s all here to consider.



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Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power by Naomi Alderman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved and hated how this book refuses to be what we want it to be. Alderman’s world where women have exclusive natural rights to physical power starts as a kind of redemptive joyride that quickly devolves into a predatory, merciless freefall. This book examines how gender divisions channel the destructive nature of power, and how the darkness in all of human nature might be closer to the surface than we imagine when we romanticize it. Most of all, I loved the damning critique of how media handles atrocities in the “weather on the ones” interludes. Alderman’s writing is, as the kids say these days, savage.



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Book Review: Someone Should Pay for Your Pain by Franz Nicolay

Book Cover

In his first novel Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Franz Nicolay comes at his story with a lyricist’s love of beauty and a seasoned performer’s world-weariness. The resulting tension creates a story with a sticky floor and a hazy smell, where moral ambiguity abounds. You could tell a young, starry-eyed scenester “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be”, or you could just hand them this novel. Both rough-edged-honest and blithely cynical, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is an ode to all the acts who never made it big, fell in love too hard with the life to let it go, and are scheduled to play a weeknight basement show somewhere in Ohio, wondering what it all means now.