The Last Days of Night

by Graham Moore

A patent-law procedural turned legal caper. Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, and Paul Cravath walk into J.P. Morgan’s bar, where Agnes Huntington is singing.

I usually stay away from books featuring lawyers. I’ve had all the legal drama I can take from existing in that world for the last twenty-odd years. Despite this, I mostly enjoyed this book—especially part 3, where the legal procedural turns into a legal caper.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House

by Isolina Ricci

This book feels dated, and not just because it still emphasizes the importance of land lines, beepers, and snail mail for communication and doesn’t know anything about websites, cell phones, text messaging, video calls, or social media.

It feels like it was written for traditional suburban families with a dad who works full time, a mom who stays at home, and both of them can’t wait to get remarried because only a mom and a dad make a real family. (This book doesn’t know same-sex couples exist, either.) It doesn’t give examples of any custody arrangements where each parent has the kids for an equal amount of time.

I didn’t recognize myself or my own divorce in any of the examples.

In fairness, it was published in 1980 and last updated in 1997. But it still claims to be the “definitive” guide for divorcing parents. Which seems a little ambitious given all the above.

I admit I skimmed quite a lot of it.

Still, I found some useful information in this book. The road map from separation to separate healthy homes helped me locate my own divorce in the process. And the explanation of “negative intimacy” and why it is important to strive for a businesslike relationship with a former spouse resonated strongly with me.

All the same, there must be better, more up-to-date books for divorcing parents. Since that’s now me, I’d be grateful for recommendations.

Dead Man’s Hand

by James J. Butcher

In a modern world where witches and non-witches live together, a washed-up witch hunter’s old partner is killed for a magical artifact. Based on her last words, the Hunstman finds Grimsby, a witch who washed out of the Department’s training program and now works at a Chuck-E-Cheese ripoff restaurant entertaining awful children. Together they go searching for the killer and the artifact—and Grimsby’s spine.

Good read. It didn’t suck me in, though. I’m not sure if the story was lacking something, or if hard-boiled detective fantasy just doesn’t do it for me any more. But this is the first book in a series and I’ll probably pick up the next one at some point to see where the story goes.

For what it’s worth, the author is the son of Jim Butcher, who writes The Dresden Chronicles, and this book is a chip off the old block.

The Ferryman

by Justin Cronin

A utopian dystopia (dystopian utopia—and aren’t they all?) starts unraveling when Proctor Bennett starts dreaming.

On the one hand, it’s a much-used formula. On the other hand it’s a pretty good formula as long as you haven’t read The Giver or The Hunger Games or Red Rising or watched Elysium or Æon Flux or Pleasantville or played BioShock too recently. And as long as the formula comes with a good twist, which The Ferryman does. I could hardly put it down.

Dangerous Women

by Brandon Sanderson, Caroline Spector, Carrie Vaughn, Cecelia Holland, Diana Gabaldon, Diana Rowland, Gardner Dozois, George R. R. Martin, Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawrence Block, Lev Grossman, Megan Abbott, Megan Lindholm, Melinda Snodgrass, Nancy Kress, Pat Cadigan, S. M. Stirling, Sam Sykes, Sharon Kay Penman & Sherrilyn Kenyon

A collection of short stories about women, selected by two men, George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. I had my doubts going in.

Most of the stories in this book are fantasy or fantasy-adjacent. About half are good, with a few standouts. I thought Sharon Kay Penman’s “A Queen in Exile” and Lev Grossman’s “The Girl in the Mirror” were excellent. Brandon Sanderson’s “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Nancy Kress’s “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly,” and George R. R. Martin’s novella, “The Princess and the Queen,” were very good.

The other half save one were forgettable. That one, “I Know How to Pick ‘Em,” by Lawrence Block, was memorably awful. I will spare you the details but it is a gratuitously disturbing pornographic story I wish I hadn’t read. If you find yourself reading this collection I would advise you to skip it.

Block’s odious story was almost enough to get me to quit reading entirely, but I didn’t and good thing, because most of the good stories came right after that one.

The Dragon Republic

by R. F. Kuang

The middle part of a trilogy can be hard. The first part is usually written so it can stand alone. But when an author starts the second part of a trilogy they are already thinking about the third, so it has to be a connector. It continues the story and sets up the finale, but it, too, has to stand alone to keep people interested.

It can work. The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the original Star Wars trilogy. The Dragon Republic might not be the best of R. F. Kuang’s trilogy, but it more than delivers. And it does what the second part of any trilogy must do: it makes me want to pick up the third book immediately.

The Poppy War

by R. F. Kuang

I read The Poppy War for the first time a couple of years ago, but I did not realize it was a series. As soon as I found out I bought the other books and re-read the first one to remind myself of the story.

Rin, an orphan who survived the genocide of her people, tests into the Sinegard military academy where she discovers her unique ability to summon fire before the Third Poppy War breaks out. This book is so very good, and I’m looking forward to continuing the story in The Dragon Republic.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic

by Annie Kotowicz

When I read We’re Not Broken I felt like I understood more about autism as a public health issue, but not necessarily what it means to be autistic. It turns out this book is what I was looking for.

Through the lens of science and her own experience, Annie Kotowicz describes what it means to be autistic.

Autistic people process information differently, because our brains are hyper-connected in some places and less connected in others.

I miss what others catch, and I catch what others miss.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic, pages 15 and 19.

I don’t want to tell anyone what to read (yes I do), but if you have an autistic person in your family, workplace, or circle or friends, I think this book will be really helpful. Maybe that person would even be willing to read it first and circle the parts that especially apply to them, and cross out the parts that don’t, as Kotowicz suggests.

Gallant

by V. E. Schwab

A dark, lovely book about a lonely orphan who sees ghouls everywhere and returns home to find Death waiting for her. And somehow, serendipitously, I happened to pick it up two days before Halloween.

Dr. No

by Percival Everett

Generally I enjoy it when an author feels like they are smirking at their own cleverness from behind the page. Reading such books comes with a healthy dose of satisfying I-see-what-you-did-there-ness.

Dr. No seems like it wants to be such a book, except it didn’t quite work for me.

I still enjoyed the book, and if you like James Bond (or Austin Powers) and geek out over obscure mathematical and philosophical concepts, you might, too.