Baker, Mishell. Phantom Pains.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

This is only the author’s second novel, the close sequel to last year’s urban fantasy Borderline, but it doesn’t suffer one bit from the dreaded “sophomore-novel-itis.” And by “close,” I mean it picks up almost exactly where the first volume ended, and without a lot of explanation of what went before, so you really have to read them in order.

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Published in: on 31 August 2017 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pelecanos, George P. The Double.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

This is the second entry in the author’s new series set in the nation’s capital and it maintains both the frenetic pace and the often dark psychological tone of the first one. Spero Lucas is an adopted Greek, a Marine vet of Iraq, and both an investigator for an attorney and a finder of lost cash and goods for anyone willing to pay his forty percent recovery fee. And while he makes a pretty good living, it’s not really about the money for him. It’s about the danger and the action, the buzz he got clearing houses in Fallujah.

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Cherrryh, C. J. Convergence.

NY: DAW, 2017.

Cherryh is, beyond dispute, one of the best purveyors of space opera EVER and this is the eighteenth volume of her magnum opus. It’s the story of a human colony ship that lost its way and was forced to land on a previously unknown world that already hosted a relatively advanced humanoid race. That was several centuries ago and the newcomers and the atevi have since learned not only to share the planet (though on different continents, and after some quantity of blood was spilled), they are now cooperating for their mutual benefit.

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Pelecanos, George P. The Cut.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Pelecanos is considered one of the best crime novelists writing these days, but some of his books have worked more successfully for me than others. This first entry in a new character series is above-average even for him. And, like all his books, it’s set in the grittier, more crime-ridden parts of blue-collar Washington, D.C., that the tourists never see. Spero Lucas is an adopted Greek, a Marine veteran of Iraq, and now an unlicensed investigator working for attorneys and also doing recovery jobs on the side. If you lose something or have had it stolen, he’ll try to find it for you — for a commission of forty percent of the assessed value.

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Chambers, Becky. A Closed and Common Orbit.

NY: Harper, 2016.

This author’s very first novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, was one of the best science fiction novels of the past five or six years, and I enjoyed it immensely. This semi-sequel is set in the same future but focuses on Pepper, the gifted mechanic who is only one of the supporting players in the earlier story, and on Lovelace, the Wayfarer’s reborn AI from the earlier book who has been evicted from her home.

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Crombie, Deborah. Garden of Lamentations.

NY: William Morrow, 2017.

This is the seventeenth entry (over nearly a quarter-century) in what has been a pretty good semi-cozy though literate police procedural series set mostly in London — especially considering the author is a native Texan living near Dallas. The protagonists are Duncan Kincaid, a Detective Superintendent with the Met, and Gemma James, who was originally his sergeant, became his girlfriend, and then his wife, and is now a Detective Inspector herself.

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Saunders, Nicholas J. Alexander’s Tomb.

NY: Basic Books, 2006.

Subtitled “The Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror,” this is a semi-academic (lots of footnotes, lengthy bibliography) but also very readable account of what we know happened — and what else we think may have happened — to the mummy of Alexander after he died in Babylon at the age of thirty-two. By Macedonian tradition, a deceased king was buried by his successor, so whoever controlled that particular very famous corpse had an excellent claim to taking over his empire. (more…)

Published in: on 14 August 2017 at 7:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tomine, Adrian. Killing and Dying.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.

I’ve become quite a fan of Tomine, one of the best graphic novelists around, although what he produces are actually graphic short stories. Graphic fiction has to be successful both literarily and visually — otherwise there’s no point — and while Tomine’s art is first-rate, his storytelling skills are even better. His stories are entirely realistic, exploring the lives of the people next door. The quality of the writing is such that I don’t doubt he could leave out the drawing altogether and sell most of the six in this volume to New Yorker. What I especially like is that he doesn’t just tell you everything. You have to look and listen and fill in those often subtle gaps for yourself.

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Dessen, Sarah. That Summer.

NY: MacRae Books, 1996.

I discovered Dessen’s Young Adult novels awhile back and was taken with her abilities as a storyteller. She’s done about fifteen of them now, all of them very popular, and I had been reading them pretty much at random. I decided it was time to go back to her first published effort to see how her work had evolved.

Haven McPhail is fifteen, a high school sophomore somewhere in the southeast U.S., and she’s very tall. It’s now late summer and she’s grown four inches just since April, putting her a hair under six feet. This is one of the three main facts of her life.

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Published in: on 8 August 2017 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friedman, Aimee & Christine Norrie. Breaking Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2007.

This is a graphic novel about high school kids, undoubtedly aimed at high school kids, which is fine. But it doesn’t quite work. The focus is on four third-year girls at an arts magnet, each one of whom is (naturally) completely different from the other three. One is essentially a slut and the dominant personality, one is the shy hugger-peacemaker, one is being driven crazy by straitlaced parents, and the fourth, the narrator, is interested in a guy no one else approves of.

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Published in: on 5 August 2017 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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