Matson, Morgan. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

This was Matson’s debut YA novel and it won several awards and appeared on a number of “Best of” lists. Which is to say, it’s a pretty good story, nicely told, and shows a lot of heart. Amy Curry is a high school junior and a lifelong resident of southern California. She’s never been out of the state, except for a trip to England when she was little, and which she doesn’t really remember. Both her parents are professors at a local college, and Amy expects her life to just go on as it always has.

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Lewis, Lloyd. Myths After Lincoln.

NY: Harcourt, Brace, 1929.

I received a gift card for my birthday recently for my favorite rare & used bookstore, and I finally had the chance to devote a pleasant afternoon to perusing their shelves. I ended up with a short stack of interesting finds, nearly all of them long out of print, the sort of thing you’re never going to find in a Kindle version.

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Published in: on 28 March 2019 at 5:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Schneider, Robyn. The Beginning of Everything.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

This is one of the best-written Young Adult novels I’ve read in awhile, and one of the most affecting. Ezra Faulkner is one of the kings of his Orange County, California, high school — president of the junior class, captain of the tennis team, and dating the most popular girl in school. But then his girlfriend betrays him at an end-of-the-year party, and when he storms off and gets in his beemer, he’s immediately broadsided by a hit-and-run SUV.

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Moriarty, Liane. Big Little Lies.

NY: Berkley, 2014.

God, I love a good complicated story, especially when it’s as skillfully plotted and as brilliantly written as this one. I know this is considered a “women’s novel,” but I really don’t care about such marketing labels A good book is a good book, and that’s all that matters. The setting here is (fictional) Pirriwee, on the Pirriwee Peninsula, near Sydney, Australia. It’s a storybook town and Pirriwee Public School is a “magical” primary school. The cast of the story is made up almost entirely of the parents of the new crop of five-year-old Kindergartners, and they’re a soap-operatic bunch if ever there was one. The focus, though, is on three women in particular and their spouses.

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Waugh, John C. The Class of 1846.

NY: Warner, 1994.

If you have an interest in the Civil War, or in 19th-century U.S. history generally, you already know that 1846 was a key year in a number of ways. It saw the start of the War with Mexico, which was the first flowering of American imperialism and the territorial drive to the Pacific Ocean. But more specifically, it was the year many of the military leaders of the Civil War — on both sides — graduated from the Military Academy at West Point.

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Published in: on 19 March 2019 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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McDevitt, Jack. Polaris.

NY: Ace Books, 2004.

This is the second SF adventure in the series featuring antiquities dealer Alex Benedict, which began with A Talent for War. I don’t think it quite measures up to the first book, but it’s still above-average. The series is set more than 10,000 years in the future, but people are still basically people and some of them get up to no good.

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Doll, Jen. Unclaimed Baggage.

NY: Farrar, Straus, 2018.

It’s nice when a Young Adult novel comes up with an completely original plotline. This one, set in a small town in Alabama, focuses on three teenage employees of Unclaimed Baggage, a store that is the final purchaser of lost and unclaimed luggage from the airlines. (And yes, it’s based on a real company in the South.)

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Published in: on 11 March 2019 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dickinson, Seth. The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

NY: Tor, 2015.

This marketing for this first-rate novel presented it as fantasy. The jacket illustration seems to suggest that, too, but there’s no magic or dragons or any of that, and it’s actually straightforward science fiction, apparently set on Earth in the far future. As a young girl, Baru seems to live in a very laid-back Polynesian sort of tropical island society. She has two fathers, both techie types, and her mother is a huntress. Her society has been struggling for generations to stay out of the imperialist clutches of the Imperial Republic (a/k/a “The Masquerade,” because of the facial coverings mandated for government officials) while still carrying on trade, but the agents of that widespread culture are taking over Baru’s people and world slowly but surely.

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McDevitt, Jack. A Talent for War.

NY: Ace Books, 1989.

McDevitt has written more than twenty science fiction novels now, but this early work is still one of his best. And to me, one of the most fascinating things about it is the fact that the story is set some 10,000 years in the future — but because the great war by humans against the humanoid but alien Ashiyyur took place two centuries before the narrator’s own time, it reads almost like a historical novel.

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