O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1)

Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2004.

I’d heard of this author in a vague sort of way, but hadn’t paid much attention to him. But then a friend who knew I’d been exploring the world of graphic novels strongly recommended this one, so I gave it a shot — and I’m glad I did. The author has a fresh and irreverent approach to storytelling about the modern urban world and a loopy sense of humor, especially in dialogue.

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Johnson, Marilyn. Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rabble.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

I’ve been an archaeology junkie all my life, starting with my reading of Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology in 5th Grade many years ago. The summer after my freshman year in college, I was an unpaid volunteer for the National Park Service’s Missouri Valley Basin Project on the upper Great Plains — which mostly meant holding a surveyor’s rod steady, but I loved being associated with the guys who were searching for Indian hunting sites.

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Hassler, Jon. Staggerford.

NY: Atheneum, 1977.

Miles Pruitt is a native and lifelong resident of the small, ordinary town of Staggerford, Minnesota, somewhere on the highway between Fargo and Duluth. At thirty-five, he’s been teaching Senior English for twelve years at the same high school he himself graduated from — which means he has been depending on the school’s basement cafeteria for hot lunches for more than half his life.

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Published in: on 23 April 2016 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Clarke, Arthur C. Expedition to Earth.

NY: Ballantine, 1953.

Along with Heinlein and Asimov, Clarke is considered one of the Big Three of the Golden Age of science fiction. He was just as much a geek as the other two, but his literary style was rather more subtle, which made him a favorite (along with Ray Bradbury) with those who didn’t want to admit they read “that sci-fi stuff.” And after six decades, his books and stories are still well worth reading. They haven’t “aged out,” even if space ships don’t have radio tubes.

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Weir, Andy. The Martian.

NY: Random House, 2014.

Okay, so I’ve had this one on my Kindle for awhile now, waiting until I was in the right frame of mind to read it. The reviews were uniformly stellar, so I didn’t want to screw up the experience with distractions. And this week, conditions were just right. I opened the file and went to page one. And, damn, Weir sets the hook quicker than any author I have ever encountered! Two paragraphs in and I was absorbed. For three days, I haven’t done much of anything else but share the hair-raising adventures of Mark Watney, astronaut, as he tries to survive being abandoned on Mars.

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Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

If there was any doubt that J. K. Rowling had a much more varied selection of arrows in her quiver than Harry Potter, this third volume in the series featuring London private detective Cormoran Strike should put paid to that. Strike, rising star in the British Army’s criminal investigation branch before an IED in Afghanistan took most of his leg, has had two recent and highly newsworthy successes as a civilian detective, at the expense of the badly embarrassed Scotland Yard — but the publicity is bringing in the clients, so that’s okay.

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Clines, Peter. The Fold.

NY: Crown, 2015.

It’s always nice to discover a new science fiction author who does competent work. Clines has written a half-dozen books before this one, but they seem to be heavy on zombie apocalypses and such, not “real” SF. This one is more like the old Astounding hard-science pulp adventures of the John Campbell days, and it’s quite well done.

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Gardiner, Robert. The Sailing Frigate: A History in Ship Models.

Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2012.

It’s unfortunate for modern naval historians — and for fans of Napoleonic-era maritime adventure fiction, like me — that none of the nearly three hundred frigates built by the Royal Navy alone during this period have survived. The only remaining warships that operated under sail are a couple of much larger vessels, like Nelson’s Victory.

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Published in: on 9 April 2016 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Castellucci, Cecil & Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes.

NY: DC Comics, 2007.

Graphic novels — not collections of DC superhero comics, but scratch-written stories — can be kind of a mixed bag. This author has won several awards for her work aimed at the YA market, but in my opinion, she’s only about halfway to where she might be.

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Robinson, Peter. In the Dark Places.

NY: Morrow, 2015.

There have been twenty-one previous novels featuring DCI Alan Banks of Yorkshire CID and they’ve generally been quite good, earning the author a number of honors and literary awards. Banks is a fully rounded character, now facing his last few years before retirement, and the homicide squad he has slowly built up is his pride and joy, staffed by characters who are also interesting and nicely developed.

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