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Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Naked in Death by J. D. Robb. Science fiction romantic suspense.

This is going to be one of those reviews in which it seems I didn’t enjoy reading the book. That is not the case. It was an immensely fun page-turner, which I plowed through in three sittings. Nora Roberts knows how to tell an engaging story.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K. J. Charles. Fantasy.

I suppose it’s possible K.J. Charles might write something I didn’t love, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Charm of Magpies series is a bit better than this one, simply by dint of being more developed, so if you haven’t read her books yet, start there. Then, when you need more, read this.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe. Fantasy.

A typical fantasy quest story with atypically excellent writing. The main character, Crow, a thief, is a beautifully-drawn combination of neurotic, clever, avaricious, devout (in his own way…), snarky, and just plain funny. If you like fantasy with a memorable first-person narrator, don’t miss this. (One caveat: the female characters are all given extremely short shrift, but I don’t know if that’s typical in the author’s novels or if this book is an outlier.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones. Nonfiction/writing.

The problem of a collection of essays and speeches by one person on a single topic is immediately obvious: the content becomes repetitive. The story of Diane Wynne Jones’s early childhood is now ingrained in my mind, because I’ve read it five or six times. But it’s unfortunate that that is what I now first think of when I think of Reflections, because the non-repetitive bits are filled with such wisdom and cleverness and humor.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. History.

No, I am not one of those people who reads histories of Rome so I can point at current political events and say “See, this is just like that!” Comparing, say, ~240 years of American power to ~2,000 years of Roman power shows a problematic understanding of scale.… >> Read more

Balthazar, before the lunch rush hits

Last night I lamented to a friend that so far the best food I’d tasted on my vacation was my friend Mandy’s homemade pot roast (which is, I grant you, hard to compete with). He suggested Balthazar. Why did I not just ask him to begin with? Balthazar was amazing – the latte, the food, and the service were all miles better than everything I’ve had so far.… >> Read more

Manhattan, Day 4

Today was my Met day. The friend I’m staying with lives in Midtown, so I decided to walk up through the park rather than take the bus. Of course it decided to rain buckets and buckets and buckets and I did not dry out in the four hours I was in the museum. Water even got inside the sleeves of of my heavy lined wool coat and my knee-high leather boots.… >> Read more