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Humanity

Humanity book cover: a picture of Jimmy Carter

This is a good book about a fascinating and inspiring man. It looks briefly at what went wrong for Jimmy Carter in the Presidency, but the bulk of the book is about Carter's post-presidency, arguing that Carter redefined what it means (and what it should mean) to be a former President of the United States. It is also the story of a man coming back from a very public and humiliating failure and building a meaningful "second act" in life that made a real difference.

Author: 

Jordan Michael Smith

Unexpected Stories

This is a small collection: it contains just a novella and a short story. But they are previously unknown short works from sci fi great Octavia Butler, and they definitely showcase her talent. Both stories draw you in from the start, immersing you in a different world that is believable and interesting. The characters are believable, too, and both stories kept me eagerly reading to the end. If you've never read any Butler before, these stories are a fine introduction. If you're already a Butler fan, you won't want to miss them.

Author/Editor: 

Octavia Butler

The Piper

This is a short mystery that is related to a longer series of mysteries by the same author, but it stands well on its own. It is set in the Scottish highlands, and the setting is like another character in this story. The setting and the main character, Hamish MacLeod, are the stars of the book, but the mystery itself is solid, too. All in all, this is an enjoyable pick if you're looking for a short mystery.

Author: 

Charles Todd

Bluewater Walkabout: Into the Caribbean

This book is a collection of essays about long term travel in the Caribbean via boat. The author has spent decades living this way, and raised her sons on a boat. Some of the essays could have used a little more careful editing, but the joy of the way of life the essays are describing makes it fairly easy to look past that and just enjoy the peak into a very different approach to life than the one most of us live.

Author/Editor: 

Tina Dreffin

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities book cover, and image of a male military office, viewed from behind.

This is an action-packed military sci-fi story. It is set in the same universe as longer books, but it stands well on its own. The main character is a special operations type military officer, sent undercover on a mission that involves an old friend. I read this book on vacation, and it was a perfect fit: good, escapist fun.

Author: 

Yoon Ha Lee

Book Introduction: TurboJetSlams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God

I have a book introduction for you this week! Jass Richards stops by to talk about her book, TurboJetSlams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God. I've actually read this one, and it is a humorous mix of story and philosophy-tinged thought about what we owe each other. Below, Jass explains what made her write it.

TurboJetSlams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God

TurbuJetSlams book cover, which features a cartoon of two kids on a JetSki

Beach Plum Jam

Beach Plum Jam book cover, a picture of a jar of beach plum jam.

This is a deceptively simple story about a woman whose comfortable life is disrupted when an old childhood friend builds a vacation home in the beach community where she lives. But there's more under the surface. Even the protagonist recognizes that the disruption she feels may be entirely of her own making, and both the protagonist and the maybe-antagonist are sympathetic characters. The story made me think about how far childhood can reach into adulthood, and how hard it is to feel truly comfortable in your own skin.

Author: 

Patricia G. Buddenhagen

The Scarlet Ceremony

The Scarlet Ceremony book cover

This is a fun mystery story, featuring an unconventional London private investigator who thinks he's just taken a dognapping case, but slowly discovers that it is much more than that. If you're looking for an action-packed short mystery with a bit of sardonic humor, this is a good choice. I didn't notice until after I had started reading it that it is part of a series of novellas, so if you're the type who likes to read series from the beginning, go back and find the first one. This story stands on its own, though.

Author: 

Paul Vlitos

Superheroes Reborn

This is an anthology of five superhero origin stories. The five stories are all really different from each other, but they are all also really good and well-written. I really enjoyed the various takes on the superhero origin story theme. I have a soft spot for quirky superhero stories, but I think anyone who enjoys light-hearted speculative fiction would enjoy this collection. It is just a lot of fun.

Author/Editor: 

The Book Smugglers

Distances

Distances book cover (a representation of the space described by a mathematical function)

This novella has a really original and fascinating premise, in which mathematics can be explored in a quasi-physical state. The universe it builds is one I'd love to revisit, but this story stands on its own and feels complete. The theme about leaving home and whether you can ever really return is explored in a thought-provoking but not heavy-handed way. But the real strength of this novella is the writing, which pulls you along through the story and the necessary world-building detours so expertly that it feels like a leisurely read, and yet I couldn't put it down.

Author: 

Vandana Singh

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