Bagieu, Penelope. Exquisite Corpse.

NY: First Second, 2015.

Bagieu is a relatively new French graphic novelist with a not-huge output, but she has already made her mark among both readers and critics. Zoe is a Parisian in her early 20s, working as a spokesmodel at auto shows, and introducing new brands of cheese, and whatever else turns up. Not much of a job but it’s a living. Except then she has to go home to her slobbish skinhead boyfriend, who always leaves his socks on when they have sex.

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Published in: on 30 January 2018 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cameron, Dana. Site Unseen.

NY: HarperCollins, 2007.

For some reason, I seem to be reading a lot of murder mysteries involving archaeologists lately. Unfortunately, though I had hopes for it, this really didn’t turn out to be one of the better ones. It’s the first in a series featuring thirty-year-old Emma Fielding, whose specialty appears to be North American colonial sites, which this time is a very early English fort on a coastal river near Penitence Point, Maine.

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Published in: on 28 January 2018 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Griffiths, Elly. The House at Sea’s End.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the third in the series featuring Dr. Ruth Galloway, archaeologist in the wilds of northern Norfolk, and the quality remains high. Ruth lives almost by herself in a small cottage out on the edge of the saltmarsh, which can be something of a trial in the winter, and now she has a new baby, too. (Her relationship with the father provides one of the continuing themes in the series, and it’s nicely handled.)

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Jemisin, N. K. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

NY: Orbit, 2010.

[NOTE: Apologies for the unexpected three-day hiatus, folks. I was out in the wilderness without an Internet connection.]

By the time I was one chapter into this not terribly long first volume of a trilogy, I knew I’d be along for the whole ride. The characters are that fascinating from the outset and the prose is that mesmerizing. In Jemisin’s world, the Arameri clan runs everything — and Dekarta Arameri runs the clan — and they do it with the assistance of the gods, both Bright Itempas (only survivor of the original Three) and all the little godlings who are their children (sort of). Itempas insists on order and avoidance of change, and that’s how things have been for the more than two thousand years since the Gods’ War.

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Published in: on 23 January 2018 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Greenberg, Martin H. (ed). The End of the World: Stories of the Apocalypse.

NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.

Greenberg has been enormously prolific over the years as an anthologist of short-form science fiction and fantasy, and he can usually be depended upon for a thematic collection that will hold your interest. The theme here is just what it says: The many ways in which the world — or at least human civilization — might end, whether with a bang or a whimper, and what comes after. Always assuming there is an “after.”

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Bagieu, Penelope. California Dreamin’.

NY: First Second, 2017.

This is one of those books that’s going to mean quite different things to you depending on how old you are. I grew up in Texas in the ’50s, a much bigger fan of Jerry Lee than of Elvis, and I had no use at all for those floppy-haired guys from England with all their “yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then I went to Northern California for a couple of years in the early ’60s just as beach-rock and folk music was being invented. I saw Baez in concert. PP&M came and played on campus for free, just for laughs.

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Griffiths, Elly. The Janus Stone.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the second in the series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk, and it’s even better than the first-rate first volume. Ruth is turning forty and she’s overweight, but she had a one-night stand with homicide DCI Harry Nelson — it was a combination of stress and special circumstances during the last case — and that’s complicating her life. Being a bone specialist, she’s been doing some forensics work for the police and this time, three months since the previous case, that brings her to investigate the skeleton of an infant found under the doorstep of an old house being torn down to make way for a block of luxury flats.

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Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game.

NY: Tor, 1985.

There’s a rather short list of really important modern science fiction novels, the books that influenced the next generation of both readers and younger authors. This is one of those novels. The original novelette version was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula and the novel-length version won both those awards. It’s also a book that hardly anyone who’s read it shrugs off. They tend either to love it, for a whole bunch of reasons, or to hate it, for a whole bunch of other reasons.

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Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders.

London: Orion Books, 2016.

I’ve read two of Horowitz’s earlier books, both pastiches on Sherlock Holmes, but this one is completely different, and both its critical and its public reception has been surprising. It’s also two of the strangest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. What seems at first to be the frame story is narrated by the fiction editor of Cloverleaf Books, who has settled in for the weekend with the new ninth novel from popular mystery writer Alan Conway featuring the Poirot-like private detective Atticus Pünd.

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Le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Le Carré is still the best of the great Cold War spy novelists, though he had to change his game rather a lot after the Iron Curtain collapsed. Here, he returns to his roots with a story set mostly in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many years ago, when he was young, Peter Guillam was the personal assistant, factotum, and gatekeeper to George Smiley, the dumpy, rather gray, middle-aged master spy of the Circus, and he was thereby privy to all the great (and usually secret) events of the long, strong struggle against the Soviet Union. Now Peter is becoming elderly himself, living in retirement on the farm in Brittany where he grew up.

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