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#96: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. 3.5. Let's be clear here - there is no plot in this book. It's basically "Remember Cordelia? Let's hang out with her!" Let's continue to be clear - I didn't particularly mind. This was really more like a little vacation where you got to visit friends and don't do particularly much of anything, just hang out and catch up on their lives. I quite enjoyed the interlude. But if you're hoping for Miles-style madcap adventure, you'll be disappointed.

#97: Obstreperous by D.L. Carter. 2.5. I adored Ridiculous, the first book in this series. Unfortunately, in this one, the author bites off somewhat more than she can chew. Too many different plot lines and too many different character arcs make for a rather unsatisfying conclusion. It also requires some dramatic revision of Beth's character to make her do what the plot requires, and which completely removes any vestige of common sense she may have had.

#98: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. 3.5. I'm still not totally sure what exactly happened here, but it certainly was lovely in form. This story of obsession and memory is meandering and lyrical, taking its time to build tiny character moments. The immersion in Victorian mourning customs is enthralling, and Bellman's shadowy partner is deliciously ominous. Poe would have loved it.

#99: Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen by Richard Roberts. 3.5. A return to middle school woes definitely helps this superhero tale. Still zippy and delightful. Raises more questions than it answers, though, and the ending is a bit underwhelming after the last two. Glad there's another one in the works.

#100: Prudence by Gail Carriger. 4. Alexia's daughter shares quite a number of her mother's propensities, including a nose for trouble and a love of pastries. A number of the offspring of various characters from previous series end up on one truly preposterous airship for shenanigans and havoc.

#101: Imprudence by Gail Carriger. 4.5. Prudence takes on Egypt. Werecats and old friends make an appearance, but it's her dalliance with Quesnel that really shines.

#102: Good Advice for Bad People by Patrick Thomas. 3. More Dear Cthulhu. Basically what it says on the tin.
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#84: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. 3. The central thesis is that passion and domesticity intersect so badly because you want to feel safe in a long term relationship and that the erotic thrives precisely on not feeling exactly safe. It's not a bad argument, but I didn't find it overall to be all that enlightening.

#85: Glasshouse by Charles Stross. 4. Dear god, was this a bad thing to be reading right after the 2016 election. I'd signed on for a bit of a sci fi mindfuck--I had not realized (just as the characters did not realize) I was in for enforced terrifying extremes of 1950s gender norms. It's actually a brilliant you-can't-trust-anyone game of paranoia, but the timing made it somewhat less enjoyable than it might have been some other time.

#86: The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt. 1.5. So I'd always hated this play unseen based on my extreme dislike of the song "Soon It's Gonna Rain." Then I decided that was irrational and unfair and that I should give it a chance. Nope! Still hate it! I dunno. Maybe if I'd read it when it came out it would have seemed innovative, but this just struck me as sophomoric bullshit.

#87: Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold. 4. Sweet novella filling in the gap of Miles' wedding in the Vorkosigan saga. Does not stand on its own in the slightest, doesn't need to.

#88: The Starry Rift by James Tiptree, Jr. 3. Interesting but extremely dated "novel" of several interconnected stories. It doesn't have the gut-punch impact of some of Tiptree's best short fiction, but they're lovely little stories. A plot point hinging on the recorder on a spaceship running out of physical tape does emphasize the period quite a bit.

#89: Ridiculous by D.L. Carter. 4.5. Utterly delightful Regency romp. She's masquerading as a man to protect her family's fortune, he's an exasperated duke, they don't so much fight crime as storm ballrooms and dance with wallflowers and pine hilariously.

#90: Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts. 5. Teenage girl with superhero parents kind of accidentally stumbles into being a supervillain. Surprisingly charming and compulsively readable. I particularly appreciated the series of terrible decisions made for entirely believable teenage reasons, especially since the main character is pretty aware of the terribleness even as she makes them.

#91: Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts. 4. Not quite as strong as the first in the series. Although the "let's go to a steampunk Jupiter" is a fun premise, I rather missed the need to make decisions about how to juggle being a "good" kid with being a supervillain. Also, I found some of the action sequences a little confusing. But still overall charming, and sets up some potential answers I look forward to seeing play out in the third book.

#92: Dear Cthulhu: Have a Dark Day by Patrick Thomas. 3. Advice column by Cthulhu. Kinda what it says on the tin. Not for reading straight, but amusing in short doses.

#93: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. 4. Temeraire goes to Africa. Africa...not so fond of Englishmen, or dragons. Fair enough. I do really like how Novik explores how different societies might treat dragons, and how that reflects on Laurence's growing disillusionment with his own country.

#94: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. 4. Oh Laurence, you woobie. Can you suffer nobly? Oh yes, you can. I have to say, Temeraire's decision to form his own militia of dragons is absolutely a delight.

#95: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik. 4. Temeraire's attempts at dragon rebellion don't quite go the way he wants them to, as we continue our world tour in Australia. 
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#76: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. 3.5. I particularly like this YA novel for subverting a usual trope - the protagonist who saves the day is not the Chosen One. The Chosen One kinda screws up, and her friend ends up taking the lead. Which causes the friend no end of trouble. Similarly, the long intricate quest comes out not at all as typical. It does still adhere to a somewhat formulaic emotional arc, though. Still, the bursts of whimsy are entertaining and generally very original in a "This is a charmingly clever new idea that still feels kinda like Neil Gaiman wrote it" kind of way.

#77: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 4. I loved this book desperately as a little girl. The sumptuousness, the total angst, the noble sacrifice, the miracle ending. LOVE. Is it kinda racist? Yes. (In an unavoidably Victorian, generally benign-ish way, but still racist.) Is it classist? Oh hells yes. (Poor Becky. For all that Sara muses that they could be the same, it's always very clear that they could never be. From Becky wanting to wait on her after her fall to Becky coming along as her new maid, Becky is always terribly grateful to get the short end of the stick, just as a good servant who knows her place should be. It's not a tragedy that Becky is a servant, just that rich little Sara Crewe is.) But despite that, I still kind of love this book.

#78:The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. 4. Delightfully off-kilter romp about an orphan running a sorceror service that's not unlike a plumbing service, who finds herself drafted into the politically-motivated slaying of a perfectly nice dragon. Cynical without being truly dark, cleverly constructed, and generally just plain fun.

#79: Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson. 3. Run-of-the-mill urban fantasy. This one has necromancers. It's snarky and fun, but also a bit forgettable.

#80: The Killing Moon by N.K.Jemisin. 4.5. Jemisin delivers again, with a luxuriously developed world with hints of an alternate Egypt but really its own thing. I adore how she comes up with dazzlingly convincing and complex societies that don't feel like knock off Tolkein or a roleplaying supplement. It's nice to see something other than medieval Europe as the base. But it's also all about the fantastic characters. Bad things happen to Jemisin characters, but watching them break but still keep going is much of the appeal. It is oddly standalone - there's a sequel and a prequel-thing, but this one feels complete on its own.

#81: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. 5. It is a truth universally acknowledged that women who pride themselves on being bookish have to reread this one every couple of years. Never disappoints.

#82: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. 5. It's been a bad couple weeks. This is the mental equivalent of a warm brownie. Luxurious, pampering, comforting. I continue to adore both her characters and her refusal to take the obvious or easy solution, while still fully acknowledging the obvious solution and giving us good reasons upfront that it won't work. ...this is also what I did instead of sleeping last Tuesday night. Because the sleeping wasn't happening.

#83: The Anti-Anxiety Toolkit. By Melissa Tiers. 3.5. I should probably go back and try this again while not actively in the middle of a slow-moving panic attack. The exercises seem to be fairly promising, but it's hard to convince your brain that disaster is not happening when actually, no, a real disaster is actually unfolding around you in real time. Probably better to practice these on low-level anxiety before trying to scale up to the full thing.
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#66: The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross. 4. Love the Laundry Files in general. The combination of dry bureaucratic humor and terrors from beyond just really works for me. This one's structure is somewhat odd, as he shifts away from first person here and there, not always to great effect. But overall, it works, and I'm enjoying Bob's increasing reluctant responsibility.

#67: The Doge's Palace in Venice by Michela Knezevich. 4. Great at what it is, which is a series of maps and explanations of the art in all the rooms of the Doge's palace. Perfect for either a tourist guide or a reference. Not really something you just read for fun.

#68: Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede. 3. Straightforward retelling of the classic fairy tale. Enjoyable, not particularly memorable.

#69: A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. 3.5. I had mixed feelings on this one. At times, I was really into it; other times, I was kind of racing through to finish (not in a good way). Wildly uneven in how engaging I found it, and I'm not sure whether that's him or me. The Spiders are an interesting alien race in a number of respects, but the dual structure of the Spiders pushing towards spaceflight and the humans hiding out waiting for them to get there that things felt simultaneously underwritten and overly stretched out. The villainous Emergents are so moustache-twirlingly bad that I just didn't want to deal with them most of the time; meanwhile on the Spider side, Honored Perdure had the same issue. No particular depth, just unmitigated evil. But at the same time, this stretches agonizingly over decades. There are bursts of really engaging characters doing interesting things, though. The end is very clever, and yet deeply frustrating because while he's laid hints about the twist, it's such a big twist (and then the implications are barely dealt with) that it doesn't really feel quite fair.

#70: Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio. 3. I adore Girl Genius. I'd been hoping the novelization of the first book would shed some additional light on the world. Unfortunately, really, it turns out that it takes a novel to describe what the Foglios manage to convey in drawings--there's not really any new material here. And what works amazingly well as a serialized comic doesn't work nearly as well in book form--the rhythm that leaves a joke at the bottom of nearly every page results in a weirdly bouncy prose. Mostly, it just makes me want to go read the graphic novels again.

#71: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. 3? Wow, am I of two minds about this one. On one hand, this is chock full of delightfully over the top, preposterous swashbuckling. I particularly love the part where they decide to defend a turret ostensibly as a bet and really to have a conversation that won't be overheard, and so evenly split their time between plotting, fighting, and eating a picnic. And Milady is just so very dastardly that I really can't help but love her. But on the other hand--holy toxic masculinity, Batman. I realize that this is written almost two centuries ago, and that it was a (probably not very accurate) historical novel even then. At least some of the stuff is supposed to be barbaric. But I can't help but think that this is the kind of garbage that leads to MRAs baying about Alpha males and crap. D'Artagnan repeatedly and celebratedly murders people all over the place for no reason. I'm particularly looking at the part where he tries to kill someone he's never met before in his life because the man had the audacity to walk with a woman that D'Artagnan has decided that he's in love with--who he's spoken to for all of five minutes, who has given no indication that she even likes him, and who's married to a third person entirely. Later, he sleeps with a girl to get to her mistress. The girl actually does like him. She's worthless, though, and really he's still in love with the first one (but also still trying to screw the mistress). If that's not pretty much the textbook example of treating all women as if they exist only to service you, I don't really know what is. Gah. Yes, I realize standards are different. But when we hold this up as "classic literature" and "fun!" without questioning, it says some really nasty things.
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I've very much fallen behind this year. I suspect I'm not making it to 100.

#58 Deadline by Mira Grant. 4. When it became clear at the end of the first novel of this trilogy that the second book was going to be in the voice of a different character, I wasn't really sure I wanted to continue. I liked Georgia; I was not a huge fan of Shaun. Fortunately, the inside of Shaun's head turned out to be much more interesting than anticipated. Meanwhile, zombies continue to run amuck, but the real danger is from the people who are supposed to protect us. -1 for villain monologuing, which is supposed to be overblown but still didn't quite make sense to me in context.

#59 Blackout by Mira Grant. 4. Very nice conclusion to the series. A couple seeds sown earlier on are taken to their full logical fruit, in a very satisfying way. Also, a lot of people get eaten by zombies.

#60 Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay. 4. Kay's usual well-researched alternate world lushness, applied to the Byzantine Empire. Kay does a marvelous job of immersing us in a fabulous world, and hinting that equally fabulous people and places lurk just off the map. The repetition of the book's title gets old, though. And while I enjoy how he sometimes leaves things for the reader to figure out, I wasn't sure which woman comes in at the very end, which I think he intended and I found frustrating. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the politicking.

#61 Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. 3.5. Overall, very satisfying conclusion to many of the plot arcs begun in Sailing to Sarantium. Lots of intrigue and skullduggery, and a welcome new point of view from the a doctor from a rival empire. However. This book repeatedly points out how important women are to this particular Empire. Their schemes to some extent drive this entire book. But the fact that we have almost nothing from any of their points of view is...disappointing. Worse, the ending basically implies that two of them are interchangeable. (A character thinks he's ending up with a woman he actually has had a long standing friendship with and instead gets one who, while being very cool, he doesn't actually know as a person at all. And he has no problem with this. Also, I'm kind of horrified that the first one may come along one day and find out that he totally just accepted this other lady and didn't even tell her.) What.

#62 Across the Wall by Garth Nix. 3. Short story collection wrapping up what happened to Nicolas after the Abhorsen trilogy, plus several other stories. Enjoyable, but already fading.

#63 The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jeminson. 5. Not quite as dazzling and heartwrenching as the first book, The Fifth Season, but I'm not sure it could be. Now the pieces are on the board, and it's more about moving them around to set up the end game. But this story about a stone-kinetic bereft mother searching for her daughter at the end of the world is still fascinating and deeply moving.

#64 Evil for Evil by K.J. Parker. 4. I have such mixed feelings about this series. The utter bleakness of its philosophy is abhorrent to me--only willingness to do evil is effective, and love is the driving force of evil. Everything that someone tries to do for good reasons comes to naught. And yet, the character portraits are so deeply compassionate and the plotting so intricate that I couldn't put it down. After the death of one city for the sake of the plans of a few men, another one is the next into the meat grinder. It's not spoiling much to say that things do not go well, but do go very much according to plan.

#65 The Escapement by K.J. Parker. 3.5. Finally getting the answers is such a relief, and the answers do make sense in the end. This trilogy is a masterwork of plotting--every aspect was carefully worked to join into one smoothly operating mechanism, from Vaatzes' plan in the books to the actual structure of the trilogy itself. And damn, is the "happy ending" bleak. Gone Girl levels of pyrrhic victory. It's impressive that he could build something so awful that was still somehow satisfying. However, I have to say, the levels of misogyny are also deeply troubling. The men in this series do terrible, terrible things, but are treated with tenderness and given respect and a deep psychological richness. They do pretty much all their terrible things on behalf of basically two women. (Each of whom is apparently a siren whom multiple men are in love with.) These two are the only women who are given points of view at any point, and both only briefly. One is passive and useless. The other is a scheming, cunning but stupid, selfish bitch. Even the minor female characters are generally opaque, maddening Others who act in ways that are mostly incomprehensible to the men and are treated as horrors to be avoided. I felt for the men, even as they made terrible decisions. I felt like the author considers women to be some alien being who can be described but have little to no interior lives worth exploring. (Yes, yes, we get a little of Veatriz's point of view. She is utterly passive and regards her own emotions mostly as something alien and beyond her ken.) So yeah, mixed feelings.
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#31: Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan. 3. Like most Milan, this romance is better than most because it skips the obvious answer (also, because while some of the tension is from misunderstanding, they do actually talk it out before they both look like idiots). But in the longer books, she skips on to the third or fourth answer she thinks of. In this novella, we only get what feels like the second answer. I think some of it is that in her longer works, she'll have misunderstanding plots, but they're resolved quickly because the obstacles facing the characters are more significant than misunderstandings. Because this is short, there's really only one obstacle. (Her desire for start up funds get easily enough addressed, by a method which could be predicted from the second chapter.) So it's not bad; it's still better than many. But it didn't really hook me.

#32: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. 3.5. I devoured Mercedes Lackey's SERRAted Edge series when I was younger. This--with the so very 80s, modern-day fairies/unsuspecting human bards--feels so very much like those books that it's almost comical, which is hardly fair given that this book was written first. The plot still holds up well, even if it feels a little dated after almost 30 years of additional urban fantasy. The details...are a lot more dated. The clothes. Oh my goodness, so much description of clothes that are so very ridiculous. But the musical references are even worse. A major concert given to the fairy court and proving the protagonist's abilities completely unironically features "The Safety Dance." That's right. Everybody look at your hands. The climactic musical duel leads off with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" which I just cannot take seriously as a dueling song. That's what my mom used to listen to while washing the dishes fifteen years ago. (She's on to newer stuff now, because she's cooler than that.) It's still a fun book. Just be prepared to end up snickering at some inappropriate places.

#33: Digital Domains ed. by Ellen Datlow. 3. This collection of short stories just...didn't stick. I can barely remember which stories were in it, a week or two later. It's not that they were bad. I think perhaps my tastes just don't align with the editor's.

#34: Deerskin by Robin McKinley. 4.5. This retelling of "Donkeyskin" (which is a deeply creepy fairy tale, even as measured by the standards of other non-Bowdlerized fairy tales) manages to give depth without losing the dreaminess that is the hallmark of a fairy tale. The multiple chapters of amnesia following trauma do get a little wearing, but it's not an unreasonable reaction under the circumstances. I loved how well the contrast between the two courts is set up, with her home court's pomp and pompousness offset by the gifts of quilts and jelly jars. You already know where you're going before you get there, which makes it all the more satisfying.

#35: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. 4. Sedaris is a master of turning minor life incidents into full blown stories (although I imagine it gets old at dinner parties). His work is relatively even--if you liked other books of his essays, these are more of the same, just about different minor topics. This time, he includes topics such as colonoscopies, buying taxidermy, and the perils of collecting litter of the side of the road in rural England.
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#26: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman and John Shiffman. 3.5. This memoir by the FBI's only full time undercover art crime specialist (retired) has a lot of fun little details but ultimately didn't leave that big an impression on me. It's unfortunate that it actually does play out a lot like a lot of movies you've seen--despite the fact that this is true and those are not, it robs the narrative of some of its color. The bitterness that the FBI has not really replaced him (which seems legitimate to be bitter about) does also end the book on a sour note. But you'll learn a lot about art crime and fighting it, if not in any particularly great detail.

#27: Sex in History by Reay Tannahill. 3.5. The later parts of this ambitious work do a nice job of covering both sex and sexism across cultures and time periods. It starts out awkwardly, though, in prehistory, centered around a series of assertions that are not at all backed up. I realize that because of the breadth of the book she isn't going to cite every bit of evidence in the text itself. There are extensive references in the back. But when one declares what sex was like in say, the Edo period, it's obvious that we have a bunch of evidence including diaries, governmental records, drawings, and artifacts. When one makes declarations about what sex was like in prehistoric times, though, I feel like you need to back up your arguments a little more rigorously. Especially since a bunch of her declarations sounded pretty bullshitty to me. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but I kicked off the book with skepticism I never subsequently shook. The last chapter as she winds up to (for her) present day also shows some of how her own views color her account. Unfortunately, the rest is presented as blatant fact, making it hard to evaluate some of the claims. There's a lot here that's quite interesting, though.

#28: Venice: A New History by Thomas Madden. 5. I'll admit, I'm so incredibly in love with Venice as a city. The Venetians were just so different from pretty much anyone else around them, and I have to admire their spirit. Of course, I'm sure a history of the same periods from, say, the Genoese perspective would paint them quite differently than Madden, who is an unabashed Venice-lover. But for covering such a wide period of time, Madden does a fabulous job of giving perspective, helping you understand the chronology, and still taking time to note the small personal details that makes history come alive.

#29: Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century by John Julius Norwich. 2.5. This is a collection of chapters about notable English and American expats who lived in Venice in the 1800s. It's supposed to reveal the character of the city. At the end, the author wonders if he focused too much on the eyes of the people instead of the city through their eyes. The answer is yes. It's a far too detailed account of the lives of a bunch of people, several of whom are only significant for having been a big part of the expat scene. But most of what he talks about for each one is their lives outside of Venice. I was hoping to get more of a sense of the social scene at the time. Instead, I know about this one's feud with the British museum and that one getting in a fight with a judge in Boston. I...really don't care.

#30: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 5. This is a really difficult book. But a blistering, passionate, brilliant necessary one. I do not necessarily agree with all of Coates' arguments in his writing in general, but given the events of the last few years, I find it hard to argue with his perspective here. He's been told all his life that if he follows the rules, everything will be fine. And indeed, he's followed the rules and he's achieved a nice life for himself and his family. But his rage and his terror and his knowledge that all the rules in the world will not protect him or more importantly, his son, from being killed by the people who are ostensibly supposed to protect him because of the color of his skin fuels this polemic of searing but beautiful intensity. As a relatively privileged person, I admit that I don't actually know what to do with this. But I feel that I need to have read it.
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#1: One Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear. 3.5. Spies and vampires and the spirits of cities, lost in Las Vegas, in the wreckage left by the Promethean Age books. Fun, although as always I feel like I'm missing half the information she's trying to convey. I only finally figured out the media ghosts when she thanked the fandoms in the afterwards; I hadn't watched some key classic spy TV shows, and had no idea who she was referencing.

#2: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. 3.5. I'm not quite sure how to rank this one. An attempt to be the hotel version of Kitchen Confidential, it was addictive while reading. Tomsky has a fluid, funny style, and I was genuinely interested in his stories. But the difference is that Anthony Bourdain wrote from the position of having made it in his industry--the book is about all his various screw ups, but he eventually gets his act together and becomes a respected chef (and a celebrity as a result of the book). I was kind of expecting a similar arc here. This is a spoiler, but I think you're better off spoiled--Tomsky does not get his act together. At the end of the book, it turns out that he's not a respected hotelier with a slightly rough past--he's still stuck in a dead end job for people he hates, by the grace of the union. It suddenly recasts everything before not as the anecdotes of an older-but-wiser expert, but as kind of sour grapes by someone with a major chip on his shoulder and no way out. I still think it's really interesting, but I wish I'd realized that going in.

#3: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. 5. Turning the post-apocalyptic and "chosen ones recruited and trained in mystical powers" tropes on their side, this seriously dark fantasy is an impressive character study even while (literally) blowing up half the planet. (And I don't mean dark as in "I am a vampire and I'm going to mope a lot" or as in torture porn. I mean in seriously considering the ramifications of prejudice, slavery, and gross power imbalances.) It's non-linear in a way that really works. And devastating for it. And oh man, the last line. I can't remember being so eager to read a sequel in years.
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Apparently Goodreads thinks I read 84 books last year, while LJ only thinks 83. I'm not really motivated enough to find the discrepancy, though. If you want the full list, you can find it on Goodreads.

With some perspective, though, here are my top 10 and bottom 5.

Best books )


The worst )
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Catching up.

#81: The Curious Kid's Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-on Activities for Ages 4-8 by Asia Citro. 4.5. While my not-quite-3-year-old is a little too young to understand the principles behind most of these, this book should keep us busy for some time. (A number of the experiments should be good for entertainment value now and then can be repeated in a few years with greater understanding.) This isn't so much a step-by-step guide as a set of questions and vague suggestions designed to prompt budding mad scientists to come up with their own questions, hypotheses, and experimental setups. That is, this book tries less to teach scientific facts as to teach the scientific method, which is probably more fun and educational than one that simply tries to get the young elementary crowd to memorize chemical bonds or something. My only real quibble is that in an effort to hit the 100+ mark, they go seriously overboard on the baking soda experiments. They get really repetitive.

#82: Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep ed. by Paula Guran. 4. A number of the stories in this collection are stellar. The only real problem is that it turns out there aren't actually that many mermaid stories to be told--while almost all of these would come off as thoughtful and creative in a less homogeneous context, when read back-to-back, the archetypes get a little threadbare.

#83: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. 5. While the middle book in the trilogy dragged a little, this offers a rock solid conclusion. I read nearly the entire thing in one tense sitting. While it is not possible to completely resolve the questions of autonomy, interdependence, authority, and the nature of humanity that Leckie brought up in the first book, this takes them to a natural balance point that feels logical but not pat. It also treats its characters with a warmth that allows them to earn their triumphs, both large and small, without overdelivering an unrealistically happy ending.
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More capsule reviews:

#73: The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau. 3. Can YA dystopian be generic? This one was strangely so.

#74: Every Day by David Levithan. 4.5. Opposite of generic. Engaging and touching story of a person who wakes up in a different body every day. Does a good job of exploring some of the ramifications without becoming just a thought exercise.

#75: HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and other improbable crowdfunding projects ed. by John Joseph Adams. 3.5. Gets a little repetitive--there are a few too many time-travel/memory erasure/take over the world scenarios--but surprisingly clever.

#76: The Magus by John Fowles. 2. What the hell was that? Supposed to be literary postmodern something or other. So far up its own ass it pops out the top and waves. Turgid, florid, and other purple adjectives prose.

#77: Angels and Visitations by Neil Gaiman. 5. I'd read this before and forgotten half the stories. Not sure why the troll stuck with me. Gaiman's stories are almost always masterful.

#78: Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowel. 3.5. She admits the earlier stuff is not as graceful as the later. The stories towards the end gather some real power, though.

#79: Witches: Wicked, Wild, & Wonderful ed by Paula Guran. The title is wince-worthy, and the intros to each story are obvious and trite. But a number of the actual stories are wonderful.

#80: The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson. 5. Succinct and brilliant. A magical forger desperately trying to rebuild the soul of a dead emperor is a strangely compelling character.
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Title: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Author: Steven Johnson
Genre: History (19th C London)/pop science
Thingummies: 4

Synopsis: How a doctor and a clergyman discovered how cholera is transmitted.

Thoughts: So, what did you think? )
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