Lloyd, Catherine. Death Comes to the Village.

NY: Kensington Books, 2013.

This is the first in a new series (well, new to me) of historical mysteries and it’s not bad. The setting is 1816 in the small village of Kurland St. Mary, where the Kurland family have been lords of the manor, magistrates, and just about everything else of importance for centuries. The current head of the family is Major Robert Kurland, who had a large cavalry horse fall on him the year before at Waterloo, and he’s been trying to recover, both physically and psychologically, ever since.

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Matthews, Jason. Red Sparrow.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

I’m a big fan of John Le Carré’s espionage novels, and have been for a long time, so it follows that I’m picky about spy stories by other authors. I’ve never been a spy, so I can’t know if a particular yarn is realistic or not, but this one certainly feels like the real thing.

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Published in: on 28 March 2020 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Goslee, S. J. Whatever; or, How Junior year Became Totally F$@ked.

NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2016.

This is the author’s debut novel, and it’s the sort of book that couldn’t even have been published as recently as the 1980s, when the realization of being gay, much less bi, was something a teenager had to keep a desperate secret if he wanted to survive high school. But things are different now, especially among most young people, and this pitch-perfect story of sexual discovery and the nerve-wracking process of figuring out who you are and of coming out to family and friends is very well done indeed.

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Goldberg, Lee. Lost Hills.

Seattle: Thomas Mercer, 2019.

Goldberg has written more than thirty novels, mostly mysteries and thrillers, and has won two Edgars and a number of other awards. This is the first episode in a new series and the character-handling and the writing in general are as skilled as you would expect.

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Mills, Emma. Foolish Hearts.

NY: Henry Holt, 2017.

Mills is another above-average author of Young Adult fiction, and this is one of her best. The themes here are not just romance, though there’s plenty of that, both straight and gay, but also the real meaning of friendship.

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Culliton, Emily. The Misfortune of Marion Palm.

NY: Knopf, 2017.

This book has gotten generally strong reviews, which is a little surprising, because the main character is so thoroughly unlikeable. Marion Palm, a blue-collar Brooklynite now pushing forty, has been embezzling from her various employers ever since she dropped out of college after one semester, and she’s become really good at it. It’s a talent.

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Published in: on 16 March 2020 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Telgemeier, Raina. Guts.

NY: Scholastic Books, 2019.

In 2010, Raina published her first original graphic novel, Smile, based on events in her own childhood in northern California. (She had already been illustrating the “Babysitters Club” series.) It won her the Eisner, the most important award there is for author-artists. In 2014, she did a sort-of sequel, Sisters, also based on real events. That won another Eisner. This new book makes it a trilogy and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she pulls off a hat trick.

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Published in: on 13 March 2020 at 4:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Holland, Cecelia. Jerusalem.

NY: Forge Books, 1996.

Holland is one of the very best historical novelists writing in English, and has been for fifty years now. She and I are of an age and I’ve been a fan of hers since the beginning. She wrote Firedrake as an undergrad and got it published her first year out of school, and I bought it within a few months of its appearance. (I now own all of her books, mostly in First Editions, a few of them signed.) Her style is so tight it’s nearly telegraphic; it has been said that if Hemingway had written historical novels, this is what they would look like.

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LaZebnik, Claire. The Trouble with Flirting.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

I’ve given LaZebnik good reviews in the past, not only because her YA novels are fun to read, but also because they usually have some weight to them, themes that make you pause and think. Franny Pearson of Phoenix expects to be working at the usual boring sort of teenage job during the summer after her junior year in high school, simply because things are tight at home with just her mother to support the family.

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Published in: on 6 March 2020 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Allison, John. Giant Days. Vols. 1-12 + Early Admission [prequel].

Los Angeles: BOOM! Box, 2015-20.

This is one of the most entertaining and real-world-funny graphic novel series I’ve seen in some time, following three young British women through their careers at university, one term at a time. Susan Ptolemy is pre-med, doesn’t have much use for boys (with a couple of special exceptions), and has a tongue like a sardonic buzz-saw when she’s provoked — and she provokes easily.

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