Harrison, Kim. The Witch with No Name.

NY: Harper, 2014.

This sort-of alternate history series about witches and vampires and demons and pixies and weres and fairies and gargoyles and banshees and trolls and elves — all of whom are “people” — has had me hooked for thirteen volumes now, and it’s finally all winding down to the final curtain.

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Lardas, Mark. Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy. (New Vanguard, 161)

Botley, UK: Osprey, 2009.

Osprey practically holds the patent on nicely illustrated nuts-and-bolts military history, and this 48-page work (their standard size) is well up to standard. The American colonies went into the Revolution with a well-established shipbuilding industry but they still had to scramble to try to take on the Royal Navy.

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Published in: on 25 February 2015 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Williams, Derek. Romans and Barbarians: Four Views from the Empire’s Edge, 1st Century AD.

NY: St. Martin, 1998.

When I did an undergraduate history degree many years ago, I found myself concentrating on “early medieval,” which is the period during which the hegemony of Rome was being replaced by the more dynamic Germanic culture that eventually supplanted it — and which adopted many of its underlying assumptions.

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Published in: on 23 February 2015 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nesbo, Jo. The Son.

NY: Knopf, 2014.

Even though I kind of have a thing for Scandinavian detective fiction, Nesbo has been a recent discovery for me, and then mostly through his independent novels rather than the “Harry Hole” series. This one shows off the author’s mature noir style and it’s sure to hit the big screen shortly.

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Published in: on 21 February 2015 at 8:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Utley, Steven. Where or When.

Hornsea, UK: PS Publishing, 2006.

Steve Utley died less than two years ago at a relatively young age, and that was a particular shame. He was diagnosed with cancer and a month later, he was gone. I got to know Steve in the ’70s, when he was one of the founders of ArmadilloCon and the Turkey City Writers Conference, both in Austin, together with Howard Waldrop, Lisa Tuttle, and Bruce Sterling. (It was a great time to be a science fiction fan and/or budding writer in Texas.)

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Laemlein, Tom. U.S. Small Arms in World War II: A Photographic History of the Weapons in Action.

Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2011.

If you’ve seen any movie about World War II, from The Sands of Iwo Jima to Saving Private Ryan, you’ve observed a variety of “small arms” (i.e., hand-held) in use by infantrymen. And the odds are, unless you’re a military historian, or you’re old enough to have been a veteran yourself, they all looked pretty much the same.

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Published in: on 15 February 2015 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Munroe, Randall. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2014.

Reading this book is a lot like being one of ten sophomore engineering students drinking beer and smoking pot in a dorm room. You’ll learn some startling and frequently bizarre facts. You’ll also have a lot of fun. Munroe, a retired NASA roboticist, does the xkcd webcomic that draws millions of visitors (including me) every week.

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Published in: on 13 February 2015 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Penny, Louise. The Beautiful Mystery.

NY: St. Martin, 2012.

I’ve enjoyed all seven of the previous novels about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté, even when the author goes a little over the top regarding the mysticism of art, because there’s always the down-to-earth murder investigation to balance things. But I don’t quite know what to make of this one.

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Penny, Louise. A Trick of the Light.

NY: St. Martin, 2011.

This is the seventh volume in the author’s award-winning detective series about Chief Inspector Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté, and the focus this time is on Clara Morrow, one of the linchpins of the tiny village of Three Pines almost since the first page of the first book.

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LeGuin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness.

NY: Walker, 1969.

I’ve been a devoted reader of science fiction since discovering Heinlein in my elementary school library in the early ‘50s, and, like most SF fans, I have a short list of authors whom I consider to be the “best” or “most important,” and whom I proselytically recommend to others. Those names have changed somewhat over time, but LeGuin has been on there continually since the late ’60s. Partly, this is probably because my tastes run more to “intellectual” science fiction than rocket ship shoot-‘em-ups, and LeGuin is one of the best around in that regard.

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