Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. Sunny Side Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2015.

This generally lighthearted (and apparently semi-autobiographical) graphic novel reminds me in its realistic storyline of the work of Raina Telegemeier. It’s the summer of 1976 and ten-year-old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin (her mom is an ex-hippie) is being packed off from Pennsylvania to Florida to spend a month with her grandfather at his retirement community.

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Published in: on 23 September 2017 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Corey, James S. A. Gods of Risk. / The Churn.

NY: Orbit, 2012. / NY: Orbit, 2014.

It seems to have become a thing, when you’re producing a long science fiction or fantasy novel series, to take a break now and then and write a piece of short fiction in the same setting, but off at a tangent from the main plot line. Usually, the author takes the opportunity to explore in more detail some background topic or, as is the case with these two novellas, events from a character’s early life. The author always knows more than he tells the reader, but here the writing team of the excellent and immensely popular “Expanse” space opera series will let you on some of what came before.

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Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep.

NY: Knopf, 1939.

There are people who will tell you that Philip Marlowe is THE fictional detective in American literature and it’s hard to argue with them. This was his first appearance and Chandler’s prose is as smooth and ironically elegant as it was more than three-quarters of a century ago. It’s not a long book, less than 180 pages, but the author doesn’t waste a single word anywhere. It really does set the standard for every private eye story that came after.

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Leonard, Elmore. The Big Bounce.

NY: Dell, 1969.

Leonard was one of the great crime novelists of the late 20th century, and this is one of his early books, with no actual Good Guys, just an array of greater and lesser Bad Guys, some of whom are quite engaging. It’s a rather short book, but it’s not bad. Ryan is a small-time B-and-E man from Detroit who has spent some time in prison, but he’s not a monster.

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Published in: on 13 September 2017 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harris, Robert. Conclave.

NY: Knopf, 2016.

I’m not Catholic — I’m not really a believer of any kind, in fact — but I am interested in the anthropology of power, and I know from experience that Harris always tells a good story, so I was willing to give this one a try and I’m glad I did. Set just a couple of years from now, it’s about the struggle for succession following the death of a pope who is obviously meant to be Francis.

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Published in: on 11 September 2017 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Backderf, John. Trashed.

NY: Abrams Comics Arts, 2015

Known by the pseudonym “Derf,” Backderf had a syndicated weekly newspaper comic strip for twenty-five years, and won several awards for it, but he really only came to general notice in 2012 with My Friend Dahmer, a graphic memoir about having grown up a schoolmate of the serial killer. This is his second book, rewritten and expanded out of a fifty-page comic published in 2002, and based on his own couple of years as a garbage man at the end of the 1970s, just out of high school.

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Published in: on 8 September 2017 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Taylor, Jodi. Just One Damned Thing After Another.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2013.

I’ve been a science fiction junkie for a long, long time — since early in the first Eisenhower administration, in fact — and time travel has always been one of my most favorite subgenres. There are all sorts of classic tropes involved, and the mood can be dour, cautionary, adventurous, silly, or so complex you have to stop and reread sections to catch just what’s happening. This one, the first of a series, is one of the most complicated, yet carefully thought-out, time travel yarns I’ve read in a long time, and very well written, too.

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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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