Griffiths, Elly. The Woman in Blue.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2016.

This is the eighth volume in the very enjoyable murder mystery series featuring archaeologist Ruth Galloway of Norfolk, but it’s a bit unlike the earlier ones in that the archaeological component is almost nonexistent. It’s still a good story, though.


Le Carré, John. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

NY: Coward, 1964.

Although this was LeCarré’s third novel, it was the first one that really got him noticed, both by the critics and by the reading public. It spent some time at the top of the bestsellers lists and it pretty much established him as a new master of the modern espionage novel. The funny thing is, LeCarré was working for the British security service when he wrote it, and so it had to be vetted by the people upstairs as not giving away anything about the real-life spy business — and they okayed it.


Published in: on 29 January 2019 at 9:42 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.


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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Cunliffe, Barry. The Celts: A Very Short Introduction.

NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.

I’ve read several of Cunliffe’s books on cultures of the European Bronze and Iron Ages and have enjoyed both what he has to say and the engaging style with which he says it, but this 150-page volume is somewhat confusing.


Published in: on 30 March 2015 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lardas, Mark. Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy. (New Vanguard, 161)

Botley, UK: Osprey, 2009.

Osprey practically holds the patent on nicely illustrated nuts-and-bolts military history, and this 48-page work (their standard size) is well up to standard. The American colonies went into the Revolution with a well-established shipbuilding industry but they still had to scramble to try to take on the Royal Navy.


Published in: on 25 February 2015 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Forester, C. S. Lieutenant Hornblower.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1952.

No one seems to read Forester much anymore, and that’s a shame. My local library hasn’t even bothered to replace the volumes in the series that have gone missing or worn out over the years. But without Horatio Hornblower, there would be no Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, no Richard Bolitho, no Nicholas Ramage, no Thomas Kydd — no world of adventure novels set in the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic era, really.


Amis, Kingsley. The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage.

NY: St. Martin, 1997.

[I’ve re-read this book and completely re-written an earlier, much shorter review.]

Back in the late ‘50s, when I was (I think) a sophomore in high school, I was wandering the shelves at my local public library branch and found myself browsing through Kingsley Amis’s debut novel, Lucky Jim — in the mistaken impression that it was that famous novel by Joseph Conrad that my English teacher had recommended to the more advanced readers. It was a confusing mistake; it wasn’t set in Malaya and it apparently had nothing to do with shipwrecks. It was also much funnier than I expected from a 19th-century Polish/English author. But I read it anyway, and became a lifelong fan of the peculiarly Amis view of the world.


Published in: on 16 May 2014 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Burke, John. Roman England.

London: Artus Books, 1983.

There are two kinds of pictorial, coffee-table-type history books: Those for which the pictures are the main reason for picking up the book at all, and those for which the illustrations are, um, only illustrative.


Published in: on 21 March 2014 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gladwell, Malcolm. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

Gladwell has become somewhat famous for his ability to puncture popular preconceptions, and this fifth volume continues that tradition. This one focuses on the ways in which presumed underdogs seem so often to come out on top.