Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese.

NY: Square Fish, 2006.

Jin Wang was born in San Francisco to parents recently arrived from Taiwan, so he grew up surrounded by his peers — until Third Grade, when the family moved to a new city and suddenly he’s the only Chinese kid in the school. A year later, Wei-Chen Sun arrives (F.O.B — “fresh off the boat”) and the two boys almost automatically become best friends.

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Griffith, Nicola. The Blue Place.

NY: Morrow, 1998.

At twenty-nine, Aud Torvingen no longer wanted to be associated with the Atlanta Police Department for various reasons, not even the elite squad, so she retired and went into private security consulting. This was made easier by the fact that she’s also moderately wealthy, being the daughter of a successful Chicago businessman and a Norwegian diplomat who is now that country’s ambassador to the UK. She also has a deep, rich talent when it comes to violence.

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Ardman, Harvey. Reunion: What If the Civil War Had Never Happened?

np: Amazon Digital Services, 2014.

I’ve never heard of Ardman but this one came to my notice because I’m a long-time fan of alternate histories. What-if-ing is great intellectual fun — if you do it right and play by the rules. Ardman has written some twenty books, nearly all of them workmanlike nonfiction, and has produced a number of television documentaries (and lots of commercials, apparently), but this appears to be his first attempt at fiction.

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Briggs, Raymond. Ethel & Ernest.

NY: Knopf, 1999.

I have a thing for graphic novels, or at least some of them. Not superhero BAM! POW! stuff usually, but a talented artist who is also a thoughtful author can, with a little luck and a lot of effort, come up with something memorable.

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Bothwell, James. Falling from Grace: Reversal of Fortune and the English Nobility, 1075-1455.

Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Here I go again, reading and reviewing a relatively obscure work of serious history by an author most of you have never heard of. But I can’t help it – it’s fascinating stuff! (Really.)

The notion of the “wheel of fortune” as a mediating force in the affairs of men dates to the Roman Republic or earlier, but it was especially popular in Europe in the 12th to 14th centuries. Individuals farther down the ladder could prosper and rise in society, but those closer to the top might also stumble and slide down through the ranks. In other words, medieval society wasn’t fossilized, as if often assumed, though all men were subject to the whims of fortune. (more…)

Published in: on 16 November 2015 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kehoe, Alice. The Kensington Runestone: Approaching a Research Question Holistically.

Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2005.

Kehoe is one of the very few professional archaeologists willing to argue with the orthodox position regarding the possibility of Europeans in the interior of North America before the 16th century — and it says something about the more common rigidity of scientific thinking that she had to go to such an obscure publisher to get this short book published.

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Published in: on 14 November 2015 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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French, Tana. The Secret Place.

NY: Viking, 2014.

French began her police procedural mystery series about the Dublin Murder Squad (which doesn’t actually exist, by the way) in 2007 with In the Woods — an amazingly adept piece of work for a first novel. This one is her fifth book and each has been better than the one that came before. Everything she previously did well, she’s doing even better now.

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French, Tana. Broken Harbor.

NY: Viking, 2012.

This is the fourth volume in French’s “Dublin Murder Squad” series and I’ve been hooked since the first one. She has an interesting method, too: As you start each book, you discover that the protagonist in the new one was a minor or supporting character in the previous one. The person you thought was just a spear-carrier for the narrator to interact with turns out to be far more complex and very interesting in his (or her) own right.

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Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. Skim.

Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008.

It’s been my experience with graphic novels that, usually, either the art is really good but the writing is a bit lame, or vice versa. There are exceptions (like Neil Gaiman’s work), but not many.

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Luna, Jonathan. Alex + Ada.

Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2014.

Imagine a near future where humanoid robots are ubiquitous, and they make some people nervous. And awhile back, an experimental robot achieved sentience and went on a killing spree, but Congressional legislation took care of that. (Right?)

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