Doughton, Autumn & Erica Cope. Steering the Stars.

np: Amazon Digital Services, 2015.

Budding writer Hannah Vaughn is about to start her junior year in a backwater Oklahoma high school, but she has dreams. And one of them comes true when she wins a competition to attend a private school in London with a highly-regarded creative writing program. She’ll be glad to get away from her mother and brother, and also the boy friend from whom she has recently probably broken up (He couldn’t understand why she would ever want to leave Oklahoma. . . .)

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Perry, Thomas. The Burglar.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2019.

Perry has written more than two dozen crime thrillers, and they tend to follow a pattern: The main character (who isn’t always a “protagonist,” really) lives and operates either outside the law or just on the very edge of it, and, in addition to the formal plot, the reader learns in great, often technical detail how he or she does things. One assumes that Perry does a huge amount of research before starting each new book, because his descriptions and discussions of the minutiae of various kinds of crime do seem credible. The problem is, the actual plot and the methodology of the narrative aren’t always up to the same level.

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Published in: on 28 May 2019 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chaffee, Graham. Good Dog.

Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2013.

This a nicely laid-back graphic novel, a good way to relax for an afternoon. Ivan is just a nondescript yellow dog, not that old, not that bright, a stray all his life, and mostly just wishing he had a human to tell him what to do. His strange dreams drive him crazy, and so do those stupid chickens.

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Published in: on 22 May 2019 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Oram, Kelly & Jonathan Harrow. Joni, Underway.

np: Bluefields, 2015.

Joni Monday has just finished her freshman year at Arizona State and plans to stay on campus for the summer, even though her mother and her older brother, Andrew, live only a short distance away. Then she gets word that Andrew has been killed by a car while riding his bike, so now there’s a funeral to go to. But afterwards, Joni gets a call from a travel agent that Andrew had a paid-up ocean tour scheduled, departing from Maine in a few days, and does she want to claim the berth and go in his stead?

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Lovett, Charlie. The Lost Book of the Grail.

NY: Penguin, 2017.

I’m a book lover and always have been, so a well-written, well-plotted intellectual thriller about librarians and bibliophiles is exactly my cup of tea. This is Lovett’s third novel of that sort — the first two being the very enjoyable The Bookman’s Tale (involving Shakespeare) and First Impressions (Jane Austen)– and this one is well up to that standard.

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Whaley, John Corey. Highly Illogical Behavior.

NY: Penguin, 2014.

This is a new author for me but I’m quite impressed with his work. The story is about sixteen-year-old Solomon Reed who hasn’t left the house in three years, and it works for him. He’s acutely agoraphobic, the result of a serious panic disorder, and simply walling himself off from the outside world is his solution to his problem. His parents have decided to accept the situation — they even provide homeschooling — though they keep hoping for changes in the future.

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Brody, Frances. Dying in the Wool.

NY: Little Brown, 2012.

“Brody” is actually Frances McNeil, author of four previous novels and numerous radio plays and television scripts for the BBC. She’s a native of Leeds, in the vicinity of which her first mystery novel is set. It’s all about family secrets and the author says the character of war widow Kate Shackleton “sprang to life from our family album.” And it’s worth a read.

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Spinelli, Jerry. The Warden’s Daughter.

NY: Knopf, 2017.

Ever since reading Stargirl, I’ve been rather taken with Spinelli’s considerable skills as a highly original storyteller, recounting the ordinary lives of very unusual young people. The story this time is set in 1959 and focuses on twelve-year-old Cammie O’Reilly, only child of the warden of a large county prison in a fictional small town in the Schuylkill Valley of eastern Pennsylvania.

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Strahan, Jonathan (ed.). The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows.

NY: Viking, 2008.

Some editors of science fiction anthologies (like Gardner Dozois) are very talented, and they have the shelves full of Hugos to prove it. Most of those who cobble together a thematic collection of short fiction by an array of different authors, though, are less dependable. In my experience, Strahan falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. His stated goal here is to ask again the classic question in the ongoing SF conversation: What’s happening in the world we live in and where are we going?

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Published in: on 4 May 2019 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zappia, Fancesca. Eliza and Her Monsters.

NY: HarpeCollins, 2017.

This is the author’s second YA novel and it’s every bit as good as her first one, Made You Up, though in a rather different way. High school senior Eliza Mirk works hard at being a wallflower, at receding into the background when she’s outside her own bedroom. The idea of being noticed, at school or anywhere else, beyond what she absolutely cannot avoid, terrifies her.

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