Buxbaum, Julie. What to Say Next.

NY: Delacorte, 2017.

This is a much deeper and more thoughtful examination of high school romance than most I’ve seen. David Drucker is a very high-functioning borderline autistic whose life has long been made hell by classmates sneering at him as a “retard,” when he actually has the highest IQ of any kid in the school. He copes with the outside world by wearing headphones that surround him with music as he walks from one class to another, and by referring regularly to his notebook of rules and character sketches of everyone he interacts with.

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Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. Swing It, Sunny.

NY: Scholastic, 2017.

This is a sequel to this sister/brother team’s Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s pretty good. It’s set in the closing months of 1976 and Sunny, now starting middle school, misses her older brother, Dale, who has been sent away to a military boarding school for his own (and everyone else’s) good. The story is episodic, going from the start of school to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s — all the landmarks in an adolescent’s calendar

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Audley, Anselm & Elizabeth Edmondson. A Matter of Loyalty.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2017.

Elizabeth Edmondson doesn’t seem to be a very widely known author, but she’s a very good one — for all that I only discovered her stuff myself through Kindle Unlimited. She’s done a number of “suspense-romance” novels and then the “Classic English Mysteries” of which this is the third installment — and also, unfortunately, the last, since the author died in the middle of the first draft.

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Robinson, Peter. Sleeping in the Ground.

NY: Morrow, 2017.

Robinson’s first-rate mystery series featuring DCI Alan Banks of Yorkshire has always been heavy on police procedural details when it comes to crime-solving, and this 24th episode is no exception. Banks is coming home from the funeral of a woman he hasn’t seen in forty years — the first girl he was every really in love with, back in college — when he gets word there’s been a shooting at a country wedding on his patch.

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Stratford, Sarah-Jane. Radio Girls.

NY: New American Library, 2016.

It’s the fall of 1926 and young Maisie Musgrave, born in Toronto and raised in New York by whomever her actress mother was able to dump her on, has returned to her adopted home of London. Moreover, after several years as one of the barely-working poor, she has just been hired as a secretary at the four-year-old BBC up on Savoy Hill. Mostly, she’s the typing assistant to the executive assistant to the Director General, John Reith, who hates being forced to hire so many women.

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Atwood, Margaret. Moral Disorder and Other Stories.

NY: Random House, 2006.

To my mind, Margaret Atwood is one of the very best living writers in English and has been for some time. Her novels are never less than first-rate, and so too are most of her short stories. Not that many people are equally good at both. This volume actually falls somewhere between the two forms. The stories were written and originally published separately, and over a period of years, but they all are episodes from the life of Nell, a Canadian woman now (apparently) in her seventies, as she looks back and remembers her life.

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Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

I was aware that one of Egan’s previous novels had won a Pulitzer, and that the others had all been shortlisted for one major award or another, but somehow, I hadn’t actually gotten around to reading any of them until now. But I’m a sucker for a good historical, and this one is set on the Brooklyn home front during World War II, and it’s extremely well written.

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Corey, James S. A. Nemesis Games.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

This is the fifth volume in what has become one of the best-written space opera adventures to appear in many years. By this point, the reader has become thoroughly invested in the four main characters, as well as the half-dozen recurring supporting players, and there’s a tendency to hold one’s breath at key points in the story — because there’s never a guarantee than everyone will survive.

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Griffiths, Elly. A Room Full of Bones.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2012.

This is the fourth in the series featuring Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist — a bone specialist — working in Norfolk and living in near-isolation out on the edge of the Saltmarsh. She’s become a regular consultant for the cops, in the person of DCI Harry Nelson — by whom she also managed to get pregnant, but he’s married so she’s now also a single mother, something that doesn’t really come naturally to her.

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Grisham, John. Sycamore Row.

NY: Doubleday, 2013.

Many of Grisham’s non-courtroom-oriented stories are lightweight and rather fluffy, but he’s also capable of solid writing, tense plotting, and very well-drawn characters. This one, happily, is one of those. It’s also a semi-sequel to his very first book, A Time to Kill, set in small-town northern Mississippi, an area the author knows well. It’s 1988, only a few years after the sensational trial detailed in the earlier book, in which defense attorney Jake Brigance had his house burned down and his dog killed by the KKK for defending a black man who had killed a white man in revenge.

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