Pratchett, Terry; Ian Stewart; & Jack Cohen. The Science of Discworld. 2d ed.

NY: Random House, 2002.

This is one of the best written and most enlightening introductions to modern ideas about cosmology, evolution, and Man’s tenure on the planet that I have yet seen. Still, it’s written for the intelligent and at least reasonably educated reader, which means it’s complex enough to be difficult to understand for adolescents (or a large fraction of adults). But that’s okay.

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Weldon, Fay. The New Countess.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

This is the closing volume of a reasonably good trilogy about life and struggling among the British aristocracy during the Edwardian era. Robert, Earl of Dilberne, once an entitled waste of space, began to rehabilitate himself and get into politics. He used to be in Fisheries but now it’s 1905 and he’s moved up to the Colonial Office and the Cabinet.

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Penny, Louise. The Brutal Telling.

NY: St. Martin, 2009.

Penny is noteworthy for the complexity of her characters, and especially of their motivations. This fifth installment in the award-winning series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté homicide squad raises that to a new peak.

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Williams, Gareth, et al. Vikings: Life and Legend.

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

This very lavishly illustrated large-format volume was published for the international public exhibition of the same name put together by the British Museum, the National Museum of Denmark, and the Berlin State Museum. It was the first such exhibition in more than three decades, which gave the organizers the opportunity to show off a great many recent finds from many parts of Europe and the Near East (the Vikings got around) and to propose various refinements in interpretation.

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Dark, Alice Elliott. Think of England.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

It’s February 1964 and Jane MacLeod is nine years old, living in Pennsylvania with her parents and three younger siblings, and she’s anxious to see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. And then the father she adores, a cardiac surgeon, is killed in a car wreck on his way to work at the hospital. Jane, a very serious girl who was the most like him in the family, is convinced it’s all her fault.

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Published in: on 18 November 2014 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pratchett, Terry & Stephen Baxter. The Long Mars.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This is the wrap-up volume of the author’s “Long Earth” trilogy, and while the plotting is still rather scattershot, it’s an improvement on the first two books. And yet the title only relates to one of the three or four major narrative threads it tracks.

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Silverberg, Robert. Project Pendulum.

NY: Walker, 1987.

I have a thing for time-travel stories, and Silverberg’s own Up the Line is one of the best. But this short novel (less than 200 pages), which my local library shelves in the Juvenile section, is kind of a waste of time.

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Published in: on 11 November 2014 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Clarke, Arthur C. & Stephen Baxter. The Light of Other Days.

NY: Tor, 2000.

I’ll admit up front that I’m not especially a fan of Baxter’s individual works. I’ve tried a few of them and even though he’s won several awards, I find his style stiff and sometimes impenetrable. Which means I’m probably biased regarding those books he has co-written with Grand Masters like Clarke (and, more recently, Terry Pratchett).

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Published in: on 9 November 2014 at 7:58 am  Comments (1)  
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Walsh, Jill Paton. The Late Scholar.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

When Dorothy Sayers died in 1957, she left behind an uncompleted manuscript about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane called Thrones, Dominations. Walsh came along and the Sayers estate gave her permission to finish it (as by “Sayers & Walsh”). She had published a few modestly successful novels of her own and she did a pretty good job.

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O’Conner, Patricia T. & Stewart Kellerman. Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language.

NY: Random House, 2009.

In the pre-Internet days, the general reference desk in a large public library (of the sort where I spent several years early in my career) would be backed by a collection of ready-reference volumes to assist in answering patron questions. We got calls all the time to settle arguments about the language, its proper use, the origin of words and terms, the rules of grammar, and “what does that really mean?”

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Published in: on 2 November 2014 at 5:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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