Novik, Naomi. Uprooted.

NY: Del Rey, 2015.

I was aware that Novik had already done a lengthy adventure series involving dragons in the Napoleonic wars, but this standalone fantasy is the first thing I’ve read by her. And I confess I picked it up mostly because it won the Nebula, which is a strong recommendation, and because Ellen De Generes is producing a film adaptation. Turns out Novik is one hell of a writer.



Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby.

NY: Viking, 2002.

I read a lot of YA novels, generally of the romantic sort. Partly this is an effect of a long career in public libraries, but partly I just enjoy the generally simple plots and narrative style. (Not too simple; that would be redundant and boring.) A few authors, though, produce fiction for teenage readers that can be every bit as complex as a well-written novel intended for the middle-aged. Sarah Dessen is one of those, and the dozen of her books that I’ve read have never been less than good. And some have been very good indeed. This earlier work is somewhere in the middle of the pack.


Published in: on 8 August 2018 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Padua, Sydney. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

NY: Pantheon, 2015.

I’ve long been fascinated by Charles Babbage and his “difference engine” (almost always confused with his completely separate “analytical engine,” which was the first instance of the concepts which grew into the digital computer, more than a century later), especially after reading Gibson and Sterling’s 1991 novel. Babbage was a first-rate mathematician — he held Isaac Newton’s Lucasian Chair of math at Cambridge, most recently occupied by Stephen Hawking — but Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the only legitimate child of the mad, bad, dangerous Lord Byron, was a certified math genius.


Turtledove. Harry. We Install and Other Stories.

NY: Open Road, 2015.

Harry’s early fantasy novels and alternate history short fiction, published in the mid-1980s, weren’t bad. His first full-blown alt-history novel, Guns of the South, was also pretty good. But shortly thereafter, he began cranking out novels as fast as he could type and their quality degraded badly. Of the sixty or so mostly fat books he’s published in the past twenty-five years, many are frankly unreadable, at least to me – but I keep checking back on his work, just in case.


Colasanti, Susane. Waiting for You.

NY: Viking, 2009.

Young adult novels about high school romance — about boy-girl relationships of all kinds really — tend to follow a pattern. That’s okay, it’s what the readers want and expect, and the best writers add various fillips to make their story different from all the others. Colasanti sticks to the pattern but her characters have a lot of originality to them and the writing itself is well above average.


Published in: on 29 June 2018 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Armentrout, Jennifer L & Dhonielle Clayton. Meet Cute.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2018.

This is an anthology of fourteen YA short stories on the theme of how young couples meet and embark on relationships. (The terrible title was probably the bright idea of someone in marketing. Just ignore it.)


Albertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited.

NY: HarperCollins, 2017.

I’m a retired big-city public librarian, and I started reading YA books back in the ’60s, simply as part of my job. (I sort of skipped that whole genre, what there was of it, when I actually was a young adult.) I’ve followed the evolution of the field, the shifts in topics and assumptions about the changing world teenagers inhabit, because every decade of young readers over the past half-century has been rather different from the previous decade. Changes have accelerated substantially since I was that age. And this book simply couldn’t have been written, much less published, as little as thirty years ago.


Smith, Jennifer E. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

A century ago, when going to college was the exception and not the rule, even for the middle class, it wasn’t that unusual for high school sweethearts to marry and raise a family. (All my grandparents did it.) These days, though, high school romances almost never survive the couple going off to separate schools, with a whole new world filled with new people, waiting for each of them to explore. More mature high school seniors know this, and break-ups shortly after graduation are common.


Stevenson, Noelle. Nimona.

NY: Harper, 2015.

EXPLOSIONS! SCIENCE! SHARKS! NERDS! SYMBOLISM! Yep, that’s the kind of graphic novel this is. It won a bunch of awards, not only from other artists but from its (mostly) teenage readers, as well. Lord Ambrosius Goldenloin is the Official Hero here and Lord Ballister Blackheart is the Bad Guy, but neither of them is really terrible — even though the former hacked off the latter’s arm back when they were students together. Now, Ambrosius works for the Institution while Blackheart tries to keep the kingdom’s growing police state from impinging on its subjects any further.


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