Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything.

NY: Broadway Books, 2003.

I know this author has a huge fan base but I haven’t been very impressed by the half-dozen of his books that I’ve read. He tends to be flip, going for laughs rather than accuracy, and generally making fun of anything he apparently doesn’t understand — especially anything “foreign” (meaning not American or British).


Published in: on 30 September 2016 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Shaara, Jeff. Gone for Soldiers.

NY: Ballantine, 2000.

I’ve read a great many books over the years about the Civil War, both history and fiction, and one of the very best novels about that key event in American history, of course, is Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. When he died in 1988, his son took over managing his estate and then moved into the family business, as well. And, despite the complete lack of literary training or previous experience, he’s turned out to be not too bad at it.


Published in: on 27 September 2016 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hornby, Nick. Funny Girl.

NY: Riverhead Books, 2015.

Hornby is a masterful writer of comedy in the sense of “human comedy.” His characters are fully formed and worth paying close attention to as they try to come to grips with the world. His dialogue is frequently drily funny and sparkling but it’s always true. And this one — his first book in five years — is well up to the standard set by his previous half-dozen novels.


Published in: on 24 September 2016 at 4:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nakamura, Fuminori. The Gun.

NY: Soho Press, 2015.

I kind of have a thing for detective stories and oddball thrillers by contemporary Japanese authors, but I haven’t read Nakamura before. He’s written a number of novels, all of them well-received, and has won several major literary prizes, so I decided it was time I made his acquaintance.


Published in: on 21 September 2016 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cherryh, C. J. Visitor.

NY: DAW, 2016.

This is the seventeenth volume in the "Foreigner" saga — and “saga” is definitely the word. Cherryh is famous for (among other things) her skills at world-building and in creating multidimensional alien beings and their cultures, and to my mind this epic is her masterwork.


Ellington, Elizabeth & Jane Freimiller. A Year of Reading.

Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002.

All heavy readers, and especially all librarians, tend to pick up any volume that purports to recommend other books that one ought to read, and promises to tell you why they picked these in particular. The subtitle here is “A Month-by-Month Guide to Classics and Crowd-Pleasers for You or Your Book Group,” which tells you the method they have in mind.


Published in: on 13 September 2016 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deaver, Jeffery. Solitude Creek.

NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

I’ve never been a big fan of Deaver’s books, but this one got strong reviews so I gave it a shot. The protagonist is Kathryn Dance, an investigator and body-language expert for the California Bureau of Investigation, based in Monterey, who is involved in an operation to identify and shut down the commerce between Mexico, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area in drugs and especially in illegal assault weapons. But she screws up and mishandles a supposed witness brought in for an interview who turns out to be a hit man for one of the gangs.


Grisham, John. Rogue Lawyer.

NY: Doubleday, 2015.

Grisham’s books have always been kind of hit-or-miss in my opinion, but this one isn’t bad. Sebastian Rudd is a well-known “street lawyer” in his part of the state, taking on those accused of horrific crimes the more white-shoe attorneys won’t touch. In fact, the story opens with the trial of a defendant so loathed in his small redneck town, Rudd has to have a police escort to get to the courthouse without being stoned by the mob. (His office was firebombed a couple of years before, so now he mostly works out of his chauffeured SUV.)


Published in: on 8 September 2016 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Griffith, Nicola. Always.

NY: Penguin, 2007.

This is the third novel about the lethally vikingesque Aud Torvingen, Atlanta ex-cop, who can — and has — killed men with her bare hands. The narrative this time consists of parallel stories, the first concerning her self-defense class for women, which is far more than just karate kicks and ju jitsu holds. Aud insists on teaching her middle-class housewife students how not to be afraid and the way she does that is fascinating. But even Aud can’t predict where they will go from there.


Russell, Alan. Multiple Wounds.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2005.

I’ve read several of this author’s earlier detective novels — about a Los Angeles cop and his K-9 partner — and while they were entertaining enough, they also tended to be relatively lightweight and written in a somewhat gushy style. This work, though, is altogether darker and far more mature in content and style.