McCabe, Bob. Harry Potter, Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey.

NY: HarperCollins, 2011.

This thing is 13 by 10 inches, more than 500 pages thick, and weighs enough to require both hands (and will put your legs to sleep if you try to read it in your lap). It’s also not cheap. But if you’re a Harry Potter fan, especially of the films — and I am — you should buy it and have a special stand made for it in your library.

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Published in: on 31 May 2012 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Connelly, Michael. The Drop.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Detective Harry Bosch, who has been with the LAPD for more than forty years now, is facing absolute, mandatory, no-more-extensions retirement — thirty-nine months and counting — and while he accepts the inevitable, more or less, he’s not very happy about it. He just wants to spend the rest of his life solving murders.

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Published in: on 29 May 2012 at 6:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rankin, Ian. The Complaints.

NY: Little, Brown, 2009.

Inspector Malcolm Fox is an Edinburgh detective, assigned to the department which in the U.S. would be called “Internal Affairs,” and more than that, he’s second-in-charge of the unit that handles serious charges against police officers of crime and corruption. And if there’s anyone whom cops hate worldwide, it’s those among their number who try to see to it that they themselves obey the law.

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Published in: on 27 May 2012 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hinde, Thomas (ed). The Domesday Book: England’s Heritage Then and Now.

NY: Crown, 1985.

Domesday Book (often misspelled “Doomsday”) has fascinated me for a long time, both as an historian with a particular interest in the early medieval period, and as an archivist with a love of old documents. There is simply nothing else like it in existence, in any Western country.

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Published in: on 25 May 2012 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Benn, James R. Blood Alone.

NY: Soho Press, 2009.

Billy Boyle is a young Boston Irish cop from a family of cops, and he’s just made detective (with a lot of family help) when Pearl Harbor brings America into the war. More favors are called in to get him a commission, on the theory that a nice comfortable job in Washington on Eisenhower’s staff (of whom he’s supposedly a shirt-tail cousin) will keep him safe. Of course, Lieut. Boyle quickly ends up in the thick of things as Uncle Ike’s personal investigator, with a certain amount of undercover work on the side. That’s the setup, and while the narrative of the first novel, Billy Boyle — which was also the author’s first novel ever — was a bit shaky in places, it was still pretty good.

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Freeman, Charles. Sites of Antiquity, from Ancient Egypt to the Fall of Rome.

Taunton, Somerset, UK: Somerset Books, 2009.

When it comes to subjects like history, I’m always a little suspicious of glossy, oversized picture books because so many of them stint on the text. You have to ask, “Would this still be a worthwhile book without the images?” In this case, I’m pleased to say, the answer is resoundingly “Yes.” The text in this well-produced volume does not merely accompany and identify the hundreds of illustrations, it expands on them a great deal.

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Published in: on 21 May 2012 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. The Toll-Gate.

NY: Putnam, 1954.

Compared to the usual highly successful formulae Heyer employed in her dozens of Regency romances, this one is something of a departure in several ways. Capt. Jack Staple, age twenty-nine in 1816, is definitely a gentleman (he’s the cousin and temporary heir to an earl, in fact) but he doesn’t behave in any way like an aristocrat.

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Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success.

NY: Little Brown, 2008.

Gladwell is a master of the revelatory essay filled with “Aha!” moments. I’ve been reading his stuff for years in New Yorker, and when he began doing book-length explorations of the things in our world that need explaining, I followed right along. This one, on what “success” actually means and how people actually attain it, may be his best yet.

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Heyer, Georgette. The Foundling.

NY: Putnam, 1948.

Heyer’s Regency romances nearly always draw their protagonists, male and female, from the aristocracy, with occasional forays down into the well-off gentry. The lesser supporting characters, not to mention the servants, may hale from the lower orders, but the principal players are going to be gentlemen and ladies, usually with titles. In fact, the titles they carry are practically interchangeable; Lord Somebody may be a baron or an earl or a marquis, but that doesn’t usually affect the plot and it seems to make no difference to the fundamental personalities of the characters. But this one is a bit different, giving us a much more in-depth look at the situation of one of the highest-ranking among Britain’s peerage.

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Heyer, Georgette. April Lady.

NY: Putnam, 1957.

In nearly all her Regency romances, Heyer showed herself to be a master of character portrayal. This one, unfortunately, is something of a failure in that regard. Well, no one gets it exactly right every time.

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Published in: on 13 May 2012 at 6:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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