Stephen R. Braun: Buzz – The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine

Braun’s lucid, entertaining, and informative book is evenly split between discussion of two molecules, ethyl alcohol and caffeine, and how they behave in the human body (particularly the brain). Despite its subtitle, it’s much longer on “science” than on “lore,” but Braun doesn’t assume any particular background in organic or neuro-chemistry; Buzz is readily accessibleContinue reading “Stephen R. Braun: Buzz – The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine”

John Darnielle: Black Sabbath – Master of Reality

Darnielle’s entry on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality in the 33 1/3 series of books about albums uses the device of a teenager’s diary entries to explore the record. (There’s nothing that specifically identifies the diarist as the kid in The Mountain Goats song “Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton,” but it sure soundsContinue reading “John Darnielle: Black Sabbath – Master of Reality”

D.C. Pierson: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To

Here are a few of the things I love about The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To: When Pierson’s characters talk about bands, the made up names, e.g., The Boy Who Cried Sparrow, sound so believable I had to use Google to make sure they weren’t real. This book has the most realisticContinue reading “D.C. Pierson: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To”

George Saunders: The Braindead Megaphone

The least of the essays* in The Braindead Megaphone are “merely” entertaining and informative, even enlightening. But the best, with “The United States of Huck” at the top of the pile, are flat-out magnificent: beautifully clear-headed thinking, elegantly expressed, and driven by a passionate need to make the world a better, more humane, place. (TheContinue reading “George Saunders: The Braindead Megaphone”

John Connolly: The Book of Lost Things

I wanted to read The Book of Lost Things even though I disliked Connolly’s The Gates. I had an intuition that The Gates was a less well-developed book, maybe even rushed a bit to capitalize on the market created by The Book of Lost Things. And I was right — The Book of Lost ThingsContinue reading “John Connolly: The Book of Lost Things”

Cherie Priest: Boneshaker

The phrase that kept coming to my mind to describe Boneshaker while I was reading it was “purely awesome.” The back cover copy gives away a little too much of the setup for my taste, but I will say that it shifts between being a steampunk adventure story and a gritty, claustrophobic zombie novel soContinue reading “Cherie Priest: Boneshaker”

Wen Spencer: A Brother’s Price

A Brother’s Price is a fantasy novel with a nifty feminist twist: it’s set in a world where male children are much rarer than female children. Spencer posits that this leads to a matriarchal society in which men are valuable chattel — or, in other words, occupy a similar role to women in the vaguelyContinue reading “Wen Spencer: A Brother’s Price”

Lauren Henderson: Black Rubber Dress

I liked Black Rubber Dress quite well right up to the final chapters. Sculptress and amateur-sleuth-by-virtue-of-nosiness Sam Jones (don’t call her Samantha) sells a piece of artwork to a London investment bank, which — along with the titular garment she wears to the unveiling — gives her an entrée to, and a pleasantly outside perspectiveContinue reading “Lauren Henderson: Black Rubber Dress”

Malcolm Gladwell: Blink

[editorial note: this review/essay/whatever was originally published as three separate entities over the course of a month.] surprise benefits of pseudo-vegetarianism I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in fits and starts over the past two months — it’s on the library’s short-term loan list, so I request it, read as much as I can beforeContinue reading “Malcolm Gladwell: Blink”