Dessen, Sarah. The Moon and More.

NY: Viking, 2013.

Dessen has won a number of awards for her novels and frequently appears on “Best of the Year” lists — but always as a “Young Adult” author. That’s a form of ghettoization I try to avoid. I consider her simply a first-rate author of highly enjoyable fiction, period. Her eleventh book is about 18-year-old Emaline, plowing through her last summer at home, working in the family’s three-generation beach-rental business before heading off to a nearby state university. A perfectionist, highly organized (she was the only 5th Grader with her own filing cabinet), and a naturally helpful sort, she’s very well liked in the little coastal town of Colby (which feels like North Carolina), and she knows absolutely everyone.


Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.


Black, Benjamin. Christine Falls.

NY: Henry Holt, 2006.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, “Benjamin Black” is the nom de crime of Irish novelist John Banville, and this was his first mystery novel featuring Quirke, a decidedly quirky forensic pathologist in Dublin in the 1950s, when the Church ran absolutely everything. But even though this is a “detective story,” it’s nothing at all like what Michael Connelly or Lawrence Block might write.


Pratchett, Terry. Johnny and the Bomb.

NY: HarperCollins, 1996.

This is the third adventure of thirteen-year-old Johnny Maxwell and it’s also the closest to a classic science fiction plot. Johnny has been working on a project for school (telling adults you’re “doing a project” will get you in almost anywhere you really ought not to be) on the bombing of his little town of Blackbury by the Germans during World War II. It was all a mistake, the Luftwaffe thought it was somewhere else, but an entire street was destroyed and all its residents killed.


Hill, Reginald. On Beulah Height.

NY: Delacorte, 1998.

Things haven’t been going very smoothly lately for DCI Peter Pascoe of Mid-Yorkshire CID. He recently discovered his grandfather had been executed by firing squad in Flanders by his own side for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about the War, and his rage at the unjustness of it, even eighty years later, is quietly consuming him. And in this episode in Hill’s award-winning series, he suddenly faces a threat even closer to home that he has no way to combat.


Hill, Reginald. Underworld.

NY: Scribner, 1988.

This tenth outing for Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel of Mid-Yorkshire CID and his long-suffering right hand, DI Peter Pascoe (who finally gets his promotion to Chief Inspector), takes them into a mining community during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, who was determined to utterly destroy the unions — and very nearly succeeded.


Telgemeier, Raina. Sisters.

NY: Scholastic Books, 2014.

I’ve really gotten into graphic novels the past decade or so, but I hardly ever do superheroes. I wasn’t really into Marvel comics even in the ’70s. I prefer “real” stories. This author does autobiography and the award-winning Smile was a terrific book, so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it.


Kakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima.

Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987.

There are a handful of key books that combined cartoon-style art and text narrative to create the modern graphic novel. This is one of them. The author was a seven-year-old resident of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped in August 1945


Morton, Kate. The Lake House.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

I’ve been aware of Morton as an author of well-received romantic novels, but those usually aren’t my thing, so I hadn’t actually read any of her books — until this one, which was recommended by several friends who knew my tastes. And it is, in fact, very, very good indeed. In fact, it’s an amazing piece of work.


Carroll, Emily. Through the Woods.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Carroll is a new name to me, but she is evidently building quite a reputation as a graphic novelist. This one is a collection of five thoroughly spooky stories, all under the rubric, “It came from the woods; most strange things do.”


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