Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.

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Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

NY: Random House, 2000.

I have no excuse for the fact that this marvelous Pulitzer-winning epic sat on my “To Read” shelf for most of a decade before I got around to it. Once I started it, though, I found it difficult to put down. I’m ordinarily a fast reader (I never skim, I just take large mouthfuls of text), but this one is more than 630 pages of dense narrative, so it took awhile. You’ll want to read slowly and savor Chabon’s use of the language as well as the immense amount of social history and artistic detail he packs into every scene.

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Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear.

NY: DAW, 2011.

The first volume of this engrossing fantasy trilogy-to-be ran close to 700 pages and it took me longer than usual to read because I took my time and thought about what I was reading. Rothfuss’s multilayered style has that effect. This second volume is 1,000 pages even and, again, I took my time. The Chronicler has come to Kvothe’s small-town inn in search of his story, which the legend-covered man known as “King-Killer” decides it’s time to tell, in all its many facets.

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Published in: on 24 December 2017 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sansom, Ian. The Norfolk Mystery.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

This is a period mystery yarn that probably won’t appeal to everyone because of the main character’s rather pushy all-knowingness, but it’s kind of an interesting read. In 1932, Stephen Sefton graduates from Oxford with a poor third-class English degree (he’d spent too much time carousing as a student), so he spends a few years teaching at the poorer sort of public (i.e., private) boys’ schools. Then, fighting off boredom, he joins the Communist Party and in 1936 he goes off to fight the Falangists in Spain.

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Lehane, Dennis. The Drop.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This rather short novel was based on the film of the same name, which itself was based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” which Lehane had written a few years before. It sort of epitomizes his recurring theme of working-class life and problems in the fading industrial Northeast. Bob Saginowski runs the bar in the place owned by his cousin, Marvin, who used to be a big-time fence but who now knuckles under to the Chechen mafia, which uses the bar as a conduit for their other criminal revenues.

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Published in: on 18 December 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.

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Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hiaasen, Carl. Star Island.

NY: Knopf, 2010.

Hiaasen, the off-the-wall conscience of Florida environmental politics and a very funny writer, couldn’t produce an actual bad book if he tried. That said, this one is nowhere near his best. The subjects this time are the nature of celebrity in modern America (one can be famous just for being famous, as Paris Hilton has demonstrated), the real world of the paparazzi (they know they’re considered the scum of the earth and they don’t care), and rampant real estate development (who needs another wildlife refuge anyway?).

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Published in: on 12 December 2017 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

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Adams, John Joseph. Federations.

np: CreateSpace, 2016.

Multi-author science fiction anthologies are always a toss-up when it comes to quality. Some editors, like Gardner Dozois, nearly always turn out a superior product, but in most cases you get a few good stories surrounded by considerable dross. That’s certainly the case here, though the twenty-three stories included tend unfortunately more toward the dross side of the ledger. Moreover, the title is somewhat misleading.

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Published in: on 7 December 2017 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

The author has apparently aimed this series (it’s up to at least eight books now) at the teen market — and I mean that in the most denigrating way possible. She seems to think that as long as there’s a swashbuckling female lead, plus magic and a bit of romance, the reader won’t notice the plot holes, the seriously non-credible characters, or the gratuitous overwriting. Celaena Sardothien is the most able and successful hired assassin in the kingdom (or empire, or whatever it is) of Adarlan, even though she’s only eighteen.

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