Murder Among the Ruins: Ancient Roman Mysteries

For fans of historical novels, the ancient Romans are an entertaining bunch. If you like mysteries as well, there are definitely authors who cater to you. Below are three series that take place in the Eternal Empire. All are richly detailed and have a touch of humor to go with the whodunit. The Flavia Albia series by […]

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Noir in Space

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Science fiction is a big genre, with room for just about everyone. Today, I'd like to focus on modern noir set in orbit, whether around Earth or someplace else. The title of Anthony O'Neill's The Dark Side refers to Earth's moon, where lies the territory of Purgatory and its capital, Sin. Damien Justus is the new police sergeant there, […]

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Tudor Queens

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her birthday last weekend, it might be fun to take a look at her female predecessors on the throne, especially the mightiest of them all: the Tudor queens. Alison Weir made her name writing biographies of English royals, including the excellent The Life of Elizabeth I. Her new fictional series, […]

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Funny Tough Guys

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Novels about crime can be gripping, but there's nothing saying that they can't be funny, too. Throw in the unique stylistic touches of the varied authors below, and you're sure of a good time. Pete, known as Pillow to most, is a punch-drunk former boxer who now works as muscle for the local crime syndicate run […]

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Meet Samuel Beckett, Master of the Absurd

Sam Beckett

I have just finished reading the delightful A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker. This is the new fictional account of the writer Samuel Beckett's sojourn through WWII. Knowing he cannot write in the placidity of neutral Ireland, Beckett returns to France and the privations of occupation. However, he can't just write, he has to […]

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Art and Power

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Samuel Goldwyn, the movie studio head, told his writers: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." What he meant was that he was not interested in scripts that expressed social or political opinions. Lenin and the soviet leaders after him, on the other hand, felt that all art should have a message: theirs. With […]

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Love and War: Novels of World War II

WWII Women

Nothing in the 20th century seems to capture the imagination quite like the Second World War. Lots of books have been written by and about men, but there are also some very good books written by and featuring women. These are just a few of the most recent. Martha Hall Kelly has never written a […]

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Have Some Fun With Science Fiction Action!

Orion Space Flyer 1

Sometimes I get tired of reading serious books on serious themes and need to cleanse my reading palate. These science fictions novels are good for when you don't want to completely turn your brain off, but want some fun with your literature. Koko Takes A Holiday by Kieran Shea roars out of the gate and doesn't […]

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Books for Opera Buffs

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Chicago Lyric Opera recently announced its next season, and while only subscriptions are currently on sale (tickets for individual performances become available in July), this is a good time to look at recent novels that involve operas and those who sing them. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is as full of drama and incident […]

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Marshall Field and the Gilded Age

MF Dome

Renee Rosen has written an interesting biographical novel: What the Lady Wants. Through the eyes of socialite Delia Caton, Marshall Field and his social set come alive. Though twenty years separate their ages, Delia and Marshall turn to each other for relief from their unhappy marriages and scandalize Chicago society. But as much as this is […]

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