LeGuin, Ursula. Lavinia.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

LeGuin was best known, of course, for her innovative, highly intelligent science fiction, but she also produced some very poetic historical fiction. The classics aren’t taught any longer, so not many younger readers will ever have heard of Virgil or the Aeneid, but that’s the subject of her last novel.


Published in: on 20 August 2019 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kirby, Jessi. Things We Know by Heart.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is a new author for me, and this is not her first book, but I’m impressed with both her style and her ability to construct an unusual but convincing plot. The focus is Quinn Sullivan, now seventeen, whose life on the Southern California coast seemed perfect until her boyfriend of three years was killed. She thought she’d be spending all the rest of her life with Trent, but now it’s Day 400 since he died, and Quinn still can’t get her life back.


Published in: on 17 August 2019 at 3:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cannon, Kevin. Far Arden.

Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2009.

At more than 500 pages, this is certainly one of the fattest graphic novels I’ve attempted. It also has a very complex plot and a large array of characters, so you’ll have to pay attention — but it’s worth the effort. The setting is Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic north, but the story takes place in a world at right angles to our own.


Niven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places.

NY: Random House, 2015.

I’ve become a real fan of this author’s YA fiction, which is not only always well-written but deals with serious subjects. Niven doesn’t do frothy romances. She wants her readers to think about the important issues inherent in growing up. This one opens with Theodore Finch, high school senior in small-town Indiana, on the ledge of his school’s four-story-high clock tower, contemplating what it would feel like if he stepped off into space. It’s not really about actually killing himself, but about being in control of the decisions in his life.


Grossman, Lev. The Magician’s Land.

NY: Viking, 2014.

This is the concluding volume of a very above-average — and very adult — fantasy trilogy about the other world of magic that coexists with our mundane Earth, and it’s a very satisfying read. Volume Two told the story of Quentin Coldwater post-Brakebills, and this one is about his less happy life post-Filory. Because he’s been exiled from the only place he ever really wanted to be, and the future is looking pretty grim.


Published in: on 2 August 2019 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  

French, Nicci. Tuesday’s Gone.

NY: Penguin, 2012.

I greatly enjoyed Blue Monday, the first installment in this superior series that combines British police procedural with psychological thriller and semi-domestic drama, and this second one is even better. Dr. Frieda Klein is a psychotherapist in London, a stubborn and often bloody-minded woman who only recently acquired a cell phone (it’s nearly always turned off), both loves and hates her city, and frequently spends the night walking long distances alone as a way of dealing with her own demons.


Dickinson, Seth. The Monster Baru Cormorant.

NY: Tor, 2018.

When last we saw Baru Cormorant, native of a now-ruined island semi-paradise, and agent provocateur of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest, she had just betrayed the rebellion in the colonial province of Aurdwynn – a rebellion which she had fomented and then led. And she had arranged the destruction of the uprising’s aristocratic leaders, leaving a huge power vacuum, which Falcrest could now fill however it pleased.


Published in: on 22 July 2019 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rooney, Sally. Normal People.

London: Hogarth, 2018.

This is a fascinating book, but it’s difficult to explain why. It’s the story of two young people in Ireland and their on-again, off-again relationship over a period of about four years, from roughly their last year in secondary school through their time at Trinity College in Dublin. That’s basically it. In fact, that’s almost entirely it. And yet, there’s really a great deal more to the story.


Published in: on 18 July 2019 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Grossman, Lev. The Magician King.

NY: Viking, 2011.

It’s difficult to write a review of the second volume of a trilogy without spoiling it for those who haven’t begun the first volume yet. Let’s try this: At the end of volume one, Quentin Coldwater, recent graduate of Brakebills, had lost something precious and attempted to give up magic entirely as a result, but found that was impossible. Well, in this second episode, he gains the one thing he has wanted all his life: Entrance to Filory, the magical world. (And I mean that literally.)


Published in: on 15 July 2019 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Matson, Morgan. The Unexpected Everything.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

This author has earned a place on my “dependable authors” short list when it comes to YA novels. She can take a well-used trope — in this case, the “living with a famous father” theme — and turn it into something original, with well-drawn, in-depth characters. And then she stirs in some off-the-wall, highly cinematic scenes and adroit dialogue, just to keep you hooked.