Mackintosh, Clare. I Let You Go.

NY: Berkley, 2014.

This is a new author for me, though she’s written a large number of thrillers and detective stories. This one begins when a young mother in Bristol is walking her five-year-old son home from school. He breaks away from her and runs across the street toward their small house but is struck and killed by a car — which then drives away. DI Ray Stevens of Homicide gets the call and he and a young female Detective Constable (only in CID for a few months, but she’s smart and eager) start their investigation. Ray’s whole team puts in great effort, but it all goes nowhere.

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Scalzi, John. The End of All Things.

NY: Tor, 2015.

Scalzi’s first book, Old Man’s War, was first-rate, not only as military SF but as a study in interstellar and interspecies political conflict. The first couple of sequels continued the story in linear fashion and were also pretty good. Then the series seemed to lose its way for awhile, finally devolving into a lengthy run of semi-independent stories, each with its own theme within the future that the author built around the Colonial Union.

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Published in: on 16 February 2019 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B.

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

My undergrad degree was in Greek & Roman and I read the 2nd edition of this absorbing intellectual detective story when it was first published. Fifty years later, it’s still a great read. “Linear B” is one of the two languages discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in his excavations in Crete in the early 20th century (the other being “Linear A,” an even tougher nut). Like all early languages, it was written in a heavily pictorial form, but it wasn’t clear whether the figures used were similar in intention to Egyptian hieroglyphs, or whether they were syllabic in nature. Scholars struggled with the problem for years.

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Published in: on 13 February 2019 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gough, Richard. History of Myddle.

NY: Dorset Press, 1981.

The history you learn in school is “big” history — wars, world leaders, crusades, international treaties, vast social movements like industrialization — but I’ve always been far more interested in small, day-to-day, “next door” history. What people wore and ate, how they earned a living, their personal experiences at war, why they left the family farm and went elsewhere to raise their families, and what sort of things were important to them.

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Published in: on 10 February 2019 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Morgan, Richard K. Thin Air.

NY: Del Rey, 2018.

I got hooked on Morgan with his first book, Altered Carbon, and its two sequels. He blazed all sorts of new trails in hard-edged noir science fiction and I happily went along for the ride. Then, unfortunately, he sort of wandered off in different directions that didn’t resonate with me and I sort of lost interest. Well, now Morgan is back with a new series of cutting-edge SF and I’m happy to be climbing back aboard.

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Wolitzer, Meg. Belzhar.

NY: Random House, 2014.

I’ve been a fan of Wollitzer’s for some time. Her style is smooth and fluent and her characters are always interesting. None of her books would be difficult for teenagers to enjoy, but this is her first deliberately YA novel. Fifteen-year-old Jam (short for “Jamaica”) Gallahue kind of had a breakdown after she lost her first real love — Reeve Maxfield, a British exchange student at her New Jersey high school. Months later, she still can’t cope with her loss, and so she ends up at “The Wooden Barn,” a Connecticut boarding school for “emotionally fragile” teenagers.

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Nelson, Jandy. The Sky Is Everywhere.

NY: Dial, 2010.

Lennie is seventeen and she’s been having a really hard time since the sudden collapse and death of her older sister, Bailey, a month earlier, while rehearsing Shakespeare. The two sisters were very close and Lennie’s grief is overwhelming. She’s a long way from coming to terms with her loss, especially with the reactions of her friends and the parallel grief of her grandmother and uncle, who raised them both.

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Published in: on 1 February 2019 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Le Carré, John. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

NY: Coward, 1964.

Although this was LeCarré’s third novel, it was the first one that really got him noticed, both by the critics and by the reading public. It spent some time at the top of the bestsellers lists and it pretty much established him as a new master of the modern espionage novel. The funny thing is, LeCarré was working for the British security service when he wrote it, and so it had to be vetted by the people upstairs as not giving away anything about the real-life spy business — and they okayed it.

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Published in: on 29 January 2019 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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McCloud, Scout. The Sculptor.

NY: First Seccond, 2015.

McCloud is probably best known for his excellent instructional volumes about graphic novels and “sequential art” generally, but he has also published several well-received examples of his own. And this fat volume — more than 500 pages — is his best and most mature work yet, hands down.

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Published in: on 26 January 2019 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caletti, Deb. The Story of Us.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Caletti writes both adult-level and YA novels, and though I’ve only read a couple of them, I’m impressed so far. This one is marketed for teens but it’s considerably more thoughtful and nuanced than most, and while it’s a love story — more than one, in fact — it’s not just a standard-issue adolescent romance. And by the time you reach the end, you will realize that the title doesn’t mean quite what you had assumed it meant back there at the beginning.

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