Grisham, John. Calico Joe.

NY: Doubleday, 2012.

As I’ve noted before, Grisham writes three kinds of novels. There’s his courtroom thrillers, which are usually among his best work, partly because that’s his own background. Then there’s his “caper” adventures, about con men and bent judges and whatnot, and as a group, those are considerably less successful, largely because he tends to blow off the research and gets things wrong in fields he’s not familiar with (and then jokes about it). And finally, there’s everything else. This one is in that third group, and it’s actually quite good — and that’s largely because Grisham himself is a baseball fanatic.


Published in: on 15 December 2018 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Johnson, Maureen. The Bermudez Triangle.

NY: Penguin, 2004.

Most YA novels aimed at teenage girls seem to be about friendship and romance, which are obviously themes of continual interest to the more thoughtful among that segment of the population. This one falls into that subcategory but it’s considerably better than most. It’s not cutesy and it doesn’t talk down to the reader, and there’s also some very funny writing.


Published in: on 12 December 2018 at 5:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caletti, Deb. He’s Gone.

NY Random House, 2013.

The plot of this psychological thriller may remind you of Kimberly Belle’s The Marriage Lie, but Caletti does it better. Dani is a middle-aged Seattlite who shares an upscale, two-story houseboat with Ian, her second husband. (She had finally escaped her abusive first husband for him, and he had finally left his unmanageable first wife for her.) Ian is half-owner of a successful software company and the morning after a party to celebrate a new product release, he’s nowhere to be found.


Published in: on 9 December 2018 at 5:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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McManus, Karen. One of Us Is Lying.

NY: Delacorte, 2017.

It’s unusual to find a YA romance that also succeeds so well as a murder mystery, but McManus pulls it off nicely. Five San Diego high school seniors get detention for having forbidden cell phones in class and are cooped up together one fall afternoon. Four of them represent quite a spread of types — but then there’s the fourth one.


Lake, Nick. Whisper to Me.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2016.

This is not at all your typical Young Adult romance. In fact, it’s a throat-grabber that fairly screams with psychological tension. Cassandra — Cassie — is a lower-middle-class New Jersey beach town girl, seventeen and anxious to get far, far away as soon as she can. She’s hoping to trade on her artistic talent for a college scholarship. She’s something of an outcast at her school and has only one real friend, but she mostly doesn’t care.


Hamilton, Peter F. Salvation.

NY: Del Rey, 2018.

I hadn’t read any of Hamilton’s earlier work, the various trilogies, but I followed a colleague’s recommendation and picked up the 1,000-page Great North Road. And I loved it, every bit of it. So I was in the right frame of mind for this first volume of a new series, which is “only” 560 pages — but I’m not quite sure yet how I feel about it.


Horner, Emily. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend.

NY: Penguin, 2010.

I’ve never heard of this author and, to be honest, I only picked up the book because of the title. But it was a lucky choice because this is a beautifully written, funny, emotional, warmly conceived story that you’ll still be thinking about weeks after you’ve finished reading it.


Cleeves, Ann. Wild Fire.

NY: St. Martin, 2018.

This is the eighth and officially the last of Cleeves’s deservedly very popular murder mystery series set in the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland. DI Jimmy Perez (yeah, not a very Scottish name) runs the police operation in the islands, though he has to make way for the experts from the mainland when they have an actual homicide. The case this time involves the murder of a young nanny from the Orkneys who has worked for years for a local MD in a community that’s remote even by Shetlands standards.


Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why.

[Apologies for getting behind in my posting. . . .]

NY: Penguin, 2007.

This is a story that will absolutely pin your ears back, I guarantee it. It’s gripping and horrible (in the original sense of the word), and it all starts when Clay Jensen, high school junior, receives a shoebox in the mail filled with seven audiotape cassettes and no return address and no explanation. It takes him awhile to even find a way to play old tech like that, but when he does, the quiet voice he hears belongs to Hannah Baker, his classmate, the girl for whom he carried a torch for years, the girl he didn’t think he could ever establish a connection with. The girl who committed suicide a few weeks before.


Chambers, Becky. Record of a Spaceborn Few.

NY: Harper Collins, 2018.

Becky Chambers’s first two novels, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, made me a major fan of this author’s work. Her latest book definitely seals the deal. She doesn’t do swashbuckling, or running gunfights, or alien monsters. Her fundamental style reminds me a lot of Clifford Simak, in that it’s rather quiet and understated, almost pastoral — which may seem an odd adjective for a science fiction novel about life aboard a fleet of generation ships, but she writes mostly in pastels. And she does it so very well.