Martin, George R. R. The Hedge Knight II: Sworn Sword.

NY: Marvel, 2008.

This sequel to The Hedge Knight (2008) was also adapted by Ben Avery and drawn by Mike Miller, but I didn’t find it to be nearly as good as the first book.

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Published in: on 27 February 2013 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Spark, Muriel. Symposium.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

This is my latest attempt to try to figure out just what it is about Muriel Spark’s novels that get her so many points with the critics. There’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, of course, which is marvelous, but I haven’t really been that impressed by her other works that I’ve read so far. So I keep reading, and wondering.

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Published in: on 25 February 2013 at 7:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dexter, Colin. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn.

NY: St. Martin, 1977.

This is the third novel in the immensely popular series featuring DCI Morse — I almost said “featuring John Thaw,” so heavily is the character identified with that actor’s portrayal of him — and it nicely maintains the pace of the first two.

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Published in: on 23 February 2013 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Abercrombie, Joe. The Heroes.

NY: Orbit, 2011.

The title of this fifth book in the author’s increasingly masterful opus is deliciously ironic. As his fans have long since figured out, Abercrombie doesn’t do heroes. However, he has learned to do characters of great depth and color and a number of the players from his previous works come together here to sort of thrash things out.

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Ross, Josephine. Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades, & Horrible Blunders.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2006.

Jane Austen wasn’t really appreciated in her lifetime, except by her family, and it took several more generations for her to acquire a firm reputation as a great writer. In fact, the steadily increasing regard for her novels has reached the level of idolatry and has engendered a considerable cottage industry since the 1970s of ancillary books and derivative fiction. This small, quiet volume is one of the better examples of that trend.

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Powell, Margaret. Below Stairs.

London: Peter Davies, 1968 (NY: St. Martin, 2012).

In 1920, thirteen-year-old Margaret Langley, like many English girls her age, had to go out to work. Her father, a house-painter, was unemployed for half the year and with five children in the family, money was very tight indeed. Margaret had to take the earliest opportunity to support herself.

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Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Curse of Chalion.

NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Bujold is best known for her fast-paced and hugely entertaining space opera series featuring Miles Vorkosigon — but when you’ve read all of those, what can you do? You can turn immediately to this first volume in her first trilogy of fantasy. And even if you’re not normally a fantasy sort of person, don’t worry — this isn’t dragons and witches with broomsticks. Like all her books, this is about people. Bujold couldn’t do bad characterization if you held a crossbow to her head.

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Penny, Louise. A Fatal Grace.

NY: St. Martin, 2006.

This is the second entry in what has become a very highly regarded and multiple-award-winning mystery series, set in a tiny village in the southern Quebec woods and starring DCI Armand Gamache of the Sûreté de Quebec’s homicide division. You wouldn’t think a place the size of Three Pines could come up with more than one murder, but they seem to manage it — only this time there are ties to yet another case in Montreal.

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Penny, Louise. Still Life.

NY: St. Martin, 2005.

The flap copy and the marketing publicity might lead one to believe that this is the first in a new “women’s mystery” series — in an inherently derogatory sense, of course — but that’s only slightly true. Actually, it’s a very well-thought-out and energetically written mystery novel, period.

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Published in: on 11 February 2013 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bowen, Rhys. A Royal Pain.

NY: Berkley, 2008.

This is the second in Bowen’s most recent mystery series and it’s not bad — as long as you’re not expecting hard-boiled noir, shoot-outs, car chases, or the Mafia. Lady Georgiana of Rannoch is the half-sister of a duke and while she has the Swiss private school education and the social contacts, she has barely a shilling to her name.

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