Bowen, Rhys. The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

NY: Berkeley, 2012.

This is the sixth entry in the “Royal Spyness” mystery series featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch and set in Britain in the early 1930s. Georgie is 34th in line to the throne — well, 35th, now that her brother the duke has had another son — but she’s also completely without funds. What her father, the late previous duke, didn’t waste gambling went for death duties, so Georgie frequently finds herself casting about for ways to earn a living. Not easy when you’re part of the upper aristocracy, actually. She can hardly work as a shop girl. But she manages — usually. Now the Christmas season of 1933 is fast approaching and she’s looking for some way to escape Castle Rannoch.

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Scheer, Kodi. Midair.

NY: Little A, 2016.

The author teaches writing at the University of Michigan, and this may or may not be her first published novel, but it’s not a bad effort. It’s also quite short — barely 200 pages — but she packs a lot into it. It’s the summer of 1999 and Vanessa Baxter is eighteen, a recent high school graduate from a semi-rural Chicago suburb, and she has just arrived in Paris with three of her classmates. Her single-parent family, unlikely those of her friends, has no money to speak of, but the girls managed to find sponsors for the trip and now they’re settling into a tiny short-term apartment on the Île de la Cité. Nessie is the brainy one, and also one of the class rejects.

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Stone, Juliana. Boys Like You.

Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2014.

Stone has published a few earlier novels of the adult romance variety but this appears to be her first attempt at a YA story, and it’s not bad. In fact, its frequent emotional intensity will undoubtedly appeal to many younger readers. Monroe Blackwell is a sixteen-year-old New York girl, but she has Louisiana roots on her father’s side, and she’s spending the summer on the plantation her grandmother owns, now converted to a B&B. She was at least partly to blame in the recent death of someone very close to her (we don’t find out who that was for some time) and she’s having a very hard time dealing with the guilt.

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Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. This One Summer.

NY: First Second, 2014.

The Tamaki sisters, one writing the story and the other doing the art, made a splash a few years ago with Skim, about a rather geeky and overweight teenager in a private school. I really liked the true-to-life writing, though I had some reservations about the slightly strange artwork. This one again follows a young girl through a very ordinary piece of growing up, though it seems much more complicated to her.

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Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key.

NY: Viking, 2008.

“Young Adults” is a marketing ghetto I tend to ignore as being self-limiting. A book is either well-written or it isn’t. And Dessen writes very good books. All of them, naturally, focus on teenagers with problems, either personal or societal, but this one is a bit darker than most. Ruby Cooper’s problem is nothing so mundane as just not finding the right boyfriend. Her father left when she was eight and her sister, Cora, was eighteen, leaving just them and their not very stable mother. Then Cora went off to college on a self-earned scholarship and apparently cut off contact, and Ruby had to deal with their mom by herself.

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Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Baker, Mishell. Borderline.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

I’ve been a heavy reader of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’m much pickier about fantasy. Tolkien, for instance, doesn’t do a thing for me. I do like a lot of “urban fantasy” though, and Baker, whose first novel this is, is a welcome new addition to that sub-genre. Here she tells the story of Millicent Roper, who is barely getting along a year after a badly failed attempt at suicide when she was a film student at UCLA. Millie went off a seven-story building and survived (unintentionally) by crashing through a tree, but the fall cost her all of one leg and half the other one, and now she has to deal with prosthetics and a cane and a wheelchair. On top of the that, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and some days she can barely hang on. And she’s in a private therapeutic facility but the money’s running out.

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Telgemeier, Raina. Ghosts.

NY: Scholastic, 2016.

I became a fan of Raina’s graphic novels for adolescents with the publication of her first book, Smile. It was first-rate, made the bestseller list, and won every award in sight. She’s kept up that streak with Drama and especially Sisters, both of which are very enjoyable. With this one, though, she may be trying a little too hard.

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Perry, Thomas. The Old Man.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2017.

Sixty-year-old Daniel Chase, widower and resident for nineteen years of a small New Hampshire town just over the Vermont line, and who seems to be retired, walks his two big black dogs a couple of times a day. And he keeps his eyes carefully open out of long habit, because he has a history and he’s been in hiding for a long time. And then, as he knew would happen eventually, the people who have never quite stopped looking for him show up — which is why he has always kept several spare identities and a bug-out bag handy.

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Published in: on 12 July 2017 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Scalzi, John. The Collapsing Empire.

NY: Tor, 2017.

When it comes to writing SF novels, Scalzi doesn’t always hit it out of the park, but he does have a very good batting average. I’ve seen some highly critical comments recently about this opening volume of his new space opera series from apparently disappointed fans, so I approached it with some trepidation. Damned if I can see what they’re complaining about, though. It’s an action-packed adventure with bigger-than-life (and frequently off-the-wall) characters, a supporting cast of billions, creditable pseudo-science (and some of the real stuff, too), and a skein of plotlines that will definitely hold your attention.

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Mastai, Elan. All Our Wrong Todays.

NY: Dutton, 2017.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good time travel story, and this first novel is not only well-written and complexly plotted, it’s very innovative. Consider what the world might be like in 2016 if an essentially free and unlimited power source had been discovered back in July 1965. Turns out it’s very much like the covers of the pulps of the ’50s, with flying cars, jet packs, domestic robots, teleportation, antigravity, plentiful food, no wars to speak of, and very little crime.

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