Emma Straub: Other People We Married

The central characters in Straub’s first short story collection are almost all on the cusp of epiphanies that take them by surprise: they need to change, to leave or (more rarely) stay, and change in ways they didn’t anticipate. Straub has a fine and economical eye for telling detail, a good ear for naturalistic dialogue,Continue reading “Emma Straub: Other People We Married”

Jonathan Stroud: The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Smarkand demonstrated that it’s a book with the wherewithal to totally sidestep my critical sensibilities on its very first page. It opens with a description of a magician summoning a supernatural entity that is nicely atmospheric, but that will feel comfortable, even familiar, to readers familiar with the genre tropes — andContinue reading “Jonathan Stroud: The Amulet of Samarkand”

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island

I’m keen to read Sara Levine’s Treasure Island!!! and I thought I should probably acquaint myself with Stevenson’s classic first, to catch any references there might be. I’d never read any Stevenson before; his prose was a bit richer than I was expecting, with some evocative and economical descriptions, particularly of his harsh and unlovelyContinue reading “Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island”

Erik Spiekermann, E.M. Ginger: Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

As the name might suggest, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works takes a breezy, irreverent approach to introducing typography to the lay reader. It does a good job of explaining the vocabulary of the field. It demonstrates how elements of of a typeface contribute to legibility in various contexts. And it introducesContinue reading “Erik Spiekermann, E.M. Ginger: Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works”

Derek Sivers : Anything You Want

A couple of Derek Sivers stories: My first CD Baby order was #17697, for 8 discs, in 2000. When I got the now-famous colorful shipment notice I thought I’d actually been the first brand new customer to order as many as 8 albums. I thought the email had been crafted for me, in particular. IContinue reading “Derek Sivers : Anything You Want”

Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)

In the first novel of Smith’s “Escape from Furnace” series, young Alex Sawyer finds himself incarcerated in a future super-prison with imagery and events reminiscent of Nazi medical experimentation and death camps. Lucky for Alex, the future super-prison’s security policies would embarrass any present-day medium-security penitentiary; I had major suspension of disbelief issues throughout. ForContinue reading “Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)”

Rebecca Steadman : When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me is about Miranda’s efforts to solve some puzzles growing up in late 70’s New York city. One set of puzzles is about mysterious notes; another set is about navigating early adolescence, and the largest set of puzzles is about why people act they way they do toward one another. It’s alsoContinue reading “Rebecca Steadman : When You Reach Me”

Phil Sutcliffe: AC/DC – The Ultimate Illustrated History

Sutcliffe’s history of rock’s Down Under bad boys is lucidly written, with a rather reportorial remove. (Sutcliffe for instance is always careful to note whenever the attribution of a quote is difficult to definitively establish.) The book is clearly marked as “not licensed or approved by AC/DC,” but it’s scarcely adversarial. Sutcliffe will occasionally noteContinue reading “Phil Sutcliffe: AC/DC – The Ultimate Illustrated History”

Mark Haskell Smith: Moist

Smith’s racy, fast-moving crime novel is a little difficult to pigeonhole. The characters take their internal lives and external situations too seriously for broad comedy — even a scene, for instance, in which a straight character accidentally pulls up a gay porn web site just as a police detective enters to question him is moreContinue reading “Mark Haskell Smith: Moist”

Beard, Donihe, Duza, et al: The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange)

I hoped The Bizarro Starter Kit would help me figure out if I’d like bizarro fiction, a genre self-defined by a loose collective of writers with a shared love of cult/trash cinema. It didn’t. The Bizarro Starter Kit makes the case that there’s too much going on for me to dismiss it, and too muchContinue reading “Beard, Donihe, Duza, et al: The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange)”