Paine, Rhiannon. Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary-Woman in Japan.

Chicago: Academy, 1999.

I have a longstanding interest in the culture and social structure of modern Japan, and I read a lot of contemporary Japanese authors (in translation) and also memoirs written by Westerners who have lived and worked in Japan for an extended period. Many of those have been teachers of English, which gives them a certain angle on the country, and which also usually means they speak at least a little Japanese themselves and have done some research beforehand.

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Published in: on 19 July 2018 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Turtledove. Harry. We Install and Other Stories.

NY: Open Road, 2015.

Harry’s early fantasy novels and alternate history short fiction, published in the mid-1980s, weren’t bad. His first full-blown alt-history novel, Guns of the South, was also pretty good. But shortly thereafter, he began cranking out novels as fast as he could type and their quality degraded badly. Of the sixty or so mostly fat books he’s published in the past twenty-five years, many are frankly unreadable, at least to me – but I keep checking back on his work, just in case.

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Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do.

NY: Abrams, 2017.

This is one of most affecting graphic novels I’ve read in some time. It’s actually a memoir (the library classifies it in U.S. history), detailing the author/artist’s birth in Vietnam three months before the end of the American war there and her flight with her family as one of the Boat People in 1978.

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Jemisin, N. K. The Fifth Season.

NY: Orbit Books, 2015.

I finally read Jemisin’s earlier “Inheritance” trilogy a few months ago and enjoyed it immensely. I’m pleased to discover that the first volume of her more recent “Broken Earth” trilogy is of equally high quality. There’s a reason it won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula and several other major awards. The author’s worldbuilding skills are fully on display and the characters and the setting will rope you into the story from the first page.

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Kay, Elliott. Poor Man’s Fight.

NY: Skyscrape, 2015.

This space opera epic is the debut work by an author I discovered through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. It was a free read and I wasn’t expecting a lot — but I was surprised and delighted at how good it is. It includes some of the most hair-raising, throat-grabbing, headlong, blood-and-guts adventure writing I’ve read in years. It will remind you a little of Heinlein, and a little of Corey, and when you reach the 80% point, you should plan on putting the rest of your life on hold for awhile, because you aren’t going to want any interruptions.

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Moebius. The World of Edena.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2016.

Like most Americans of my generation, I first discovered French graphic novelist Moebius (whose real name was Jean Giraud, and who died in 2012) in the highly innovative and much-mourned Heavy Metal Magazine. His work, like that of his European peers, was a far cry from the DC approach to comics. This epic (it runs to 360 pages) started out in 1983 as a contracted series for the Citroen car company, whose vehicles were always very “French” in design. But then it took off on its own and the resultant volume became an overnight collector’s item.

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Published in: on 10 April 2018 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective.

NY: Crown, 2012.

I kind of hate to admit that I’ve never heard of this author, since this is his fifteenth novel, and I confess I picked it up mostly because of the title, but I definitely lucked out. It’s a very original sort of murder mystery, with adroitly painted characters and a thoroughly believable setting. It’s the fall of 1912 in the southwest of England and Sebastian Becker is on a case. He used to be a homicide detective in London, and then went to America, where he became a Pinkerton undercover agent (and learned how to use a pistol because “they’re all gunslingers over there”) and also met and married Elisabeth, a Philadelphia girl. Nowadays, he’s an investigator for Sir James, the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, who takes an official interest in any man of property whose sanity begins to appear questionable.

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Penny, Louise. The Long Way Home.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

For the past couple of books in this stellar series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Surete’s homicide division, has been struggling to save both his job and the Surete itself. And it all ended with the arrest of the premier of the province and with Gamache being forced to personally kill his boss. It was all just too much and though Gamache won, finally, he also retired to a cottage in the almost Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, where most of the series has been set.

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Spufford, Francis. Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

It’s the fall of 1746 and Richard Smith has just arrived in the colony of New York from London, bearing with him a note of exchange for £1,000 which he intends to convert into cash at the London mercantile firm’s New York associate, Lovell & Co. That’s a lot of money — there isn’t that much in specie in the whole of the town of New York — and Lovell insists on waiting until the confirming letters arrive, so he can be sure he isn’t being scammed.

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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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