Paine, Rhiannon. Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary-Woman in Japan.

Chicago: Academy, 1999.

I have a longstanding interest in the culture and social structure of modern Japan, and I read a lot of contemporary Japanese authors (in translation) and also memoirs written by Westerners who have lived and worked in Japan for an extended period. Many of those have been teachers of English, which gives them a certain angle on the country, and which also usually means they speak at least a little Japanese themselves and have done some research beforehand.


Published in: on 19 July 2018 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Haig, Matt. How to Stop Time.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Stories about immortality have always been popular, if only because there are so many possibilities, from the Wandering Jew to Barnabas Collins. Tom Hazard isn’t actually immortal, but he has a “condition,” the effect of which is to slow his rate of aging by about a factor of fifteen. In other words, he’s looking at probably a thousand years of life — though he didn’t know that for the first couple of centuries after his birth to an aristocratic Huguenot family in France in 1581 and his youth in a peasant village in the south of England.


Turtledove. Harry. We Install and Other Stories.

NY: Open Road, 2015.

Harry’s early fantasy novels and alternate history short fiction, published in the mid-1980s, weren’t bad. His first full-blown alt-history novel, Guns of the South, was also pretty good. But shortly thereafter, he began cranking out novels as fast as he could type and their quality degraded badly. Of the sixty or so mostly fat books he’s published in the past twenty-five years, many are frankly unreadable, at least to me – but I keep checking back on his work, just in case.


Tucker, Alan. Knot in Time.

Billings, MT: MAD Design, 2012.

I’m a sucker for time travel yarns and this one comes up with some original variations on the “time patrol” theme. Darius Arthur Heisenberg, known as “Dare,” is the adopted great-nephew of the famous physicist who elucidated the Uncertainty Principle. (But that’s really just a hook to hang the story on.) He’s nineteen and basically living on the streets of Denver, having abruptly left school and home for reasons you’ll learn later.


Published in: on 10 July 2018 at 6:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bass, Alexis. Love and Other Theories.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the first YA novel I’ve read by Bass and it’s pretty good. Aubrey Housing, age seventeen and a high school senior somewhere in the Midwest, has early acceptance to the best college in the area. Maintaining the necessary grades for so many years has had a stultifying effect on her social life, but now she decides its time to take her friends’ advice and cut loose. And on the first day of her last semester, she’s sitting in drama class, thoroughly bored, when transfer student Nathan Diggs walks in, a very good-looking guy from San Diego.


Scalzi, John. Head On.

NY: Tor, 2018.

Scalzi is a purveyor of idea-based science fiction who can almost always be relied on for highly original concepts combined with a fluent and frequently cheeky style of writing. That was certainly the case with Lock In (2014), in which an influenza-like global pandemic killed hundreds of millions and left millions more fully awake and aware but completely paralyzed and dependent on machines for life. The U.S. government poured billions into developing ways of coping (helped by the fact that the First Lady, Margaret Haden, was one of the victims) and now, a couple decades later (not far in our own future), things have settled down. And “Hadens,” as they are now known, are being reintegrated.


Clowes, Daniel. David Boring.

NY: Pantheon, 2000.

Clowes has done several first-rate graphic novels that have won awards. This, unfortunately, is not one of them. In fact, it lives up to its name: It’s utterly boring.


Published in: on 1 July 2018 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Colasanti, Susane. Waiting for You.

NY: Viking, 2009.

Young adult novels about high school romance — about boy-girl relationships of all kinds really — tend to follow a pattern. That’s okay, it’s what the readers want and expect, and the best writers add various fillips to make their story different from all the others. Colasanti sticks to the pattern but her characters have a lot of originality to them and the writing itself is well above average.


Published in: on 29 June 2018 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Perry, Thomas. The Bomb Maker.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2018.

Perry has written some two dozen books, most of them thrillers of one variety or another — but not “mysteries,” because you always know whodunit from the beginning. It’s more a matter of witnessing what the Bad Guys do, how that affects those around them, and how their assorted nemeses attempt to stop them. (And they don’t always succeed.) This one involves a nameless killer with no political or other outside motivation who is very, very good at building bombs. Why? He wants to lure in and kill off the LAPD bomb squad, and he manages to get appalling close to his goal.


Mina, Denise (adaped). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

2v. NY: Vertigo 2012.

I read a lot of graphic fiction, and I’ve also read and enjoyed Larsson’s original novel twice now, so I was surprised to find I had somehow missed this graphic adaptation of it by Denise Mina — a mystery/thriller author whose books I have also enjoyed.