Pagan, Camille. Don’t Make Me turn This Life Around.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2021.

I received this one as an Advance Reading Copy and I wish I could have made myself finish it, but I just couldn’t. The set-up is straightforward: Libby Ross-Velazques is a New Yorker and wife and mother and head of a medium-sized charity and cancer-survivor.

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Published in: on 17 January 2021 at 7:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hornby, Nick. Just Like You.

NY: Viking, 2020.

Nick Hornby is one of the most reliably readable novelists I know. Even though his style and his subject matter have evolved considerably since his first novel, High Fidelity, came out in 1995, his nine subsequent novels (plus several collections of short stories and essays) have been just as good. He’s been on my “automatic” list for some time now. I.e., anything he writes, I want to read.

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Published in: on 15 January 2021 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Novik, Naomi. A Deadly Education.

NY: Del Rey, 2020.

The most noticeable and important difference between a really good writer of fantasy and a mediocre one isn’t just plot and character, as important as those are. It’s the ability to invent a really new and original world in which to set the story. Mediocre fantasy is usually just a sad warming-over of Middle Earth or Hogwart’s while the good stuff will make you sit up straight and say, “Wow, I’ve never imagined anything like that before!”

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Johnson, Maureen. The Vanishing Stair.

NY: HarperCollins, 2019.

This is the first sequel to Truly Devious, second in a series of four, picking up a few weeks after the first volume’s cliffhanger ending, and Stevie Bell has been dragged back to Pittsburgh by her suffocatingly conservative and unimaginative parents after the death of one of her housemates at Ellingham Academy in Vermont.

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Wong, David. John Dies at the End.

NY: St. Martin, 2009.

David Wong writes off-the-wall comic horror novels and this one has become something of a cult classic in the decade since it first appeared. The narrator is “David Wong,” which isn’t his real name — but that’s okay because it isn’t the author’s real name, either.

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Published in: on 4 January 2021 at 5:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Winfrey, Kerry. Not Like the Movies.

NY: Jove, 2020.

Waiting for Tom Hanks was a rather lighthearted rom-com about Annie Cassidy of Columbus, Ohio, who was herself a rom-com junkie (and expert on the subject), and who wrote a rom-com screenplay about her best friend, Chloe, who worked at Nick’s Coffee Shop down the street.

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Published in: on 1 January 2021 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Davis, Fiona, The Dollhouse.

NY: Dutton, 2016.

I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for this author, so I thought I’d start with her debut novel, and it’s pretty good. There are two principal characters and the first one we meet is Rose, an on-screen TV personality for one of New York City’s major news stations, who shares an apartment in the Art Deco Barbizon apartment building with Griff, an up-and-coming politician who is currently one of the city’s Assistant Mayors.

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Published in: on 29 December 2020 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gibson, William. Archangel.

San Diego: IDW Pubishing, 2017.

I’ve been a fan of Gibson’s highly original fiction since Neuromancer in the ’80s, but this is his first graphic novel. He apparently meant for it to be a screenplay but that didn’t work out. (The Introduction will tell you how the project came to be, and about some of the author’s literary roots, as well.)

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Ness, Patrick. Burn.

NY: HarperCollins, 2020.

It’s 1957, the middle of the Cold War in rural Washington State, and local folks don’t much like it when sixteen-year-old Sarah Dewhurst’s father hires a dragon — a “claw,” as the rednecks scornfully call them — to clear land on their slowly failing farm. Especially when the new hire turns out to be a Russian Blue, not one of the more locally common Canadian Reds.

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Bowen, Rhys. In Farleigh Field.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2017.

Bowen is best known for several long-running mystery series in historical settings that combine romance and humor with amateur sleuthing. They’re a lot of fun and they have a lot of fans. But she has also written several standalone historicals, and this is one of the best of those, set on the British home front early in World War II.

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