Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012.

This marvelous book is the nerdiest, geekiest thing I’ve read in ages. It reminds me strongly of Neal Stephenson’s masterpiece, Cryptonomicon — not in subject matter but in its attitudes and in its apparent desire to cram in every subject from computerized cryptography, library ladders, and the early history of printing to the visual analysis of sweaterized breasts, scale model cities, and anthropomorphic knitting needles. Actually, I’ll bet Neal has read this book. And I’ll bet he loved it.


Published in: on 21 March 2018 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gauld, Tom. Mooncop.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016.

Gauld is a new author/artist for me, but I definitely like his style. He’s been published in various newspapers for awhile now, and this appears to be his third graphic novel. Every community needs law enforcement and in the lunar colony, it’s provided by a nameless young man with a glass helmet and an anti-grav patrol car (which doesn’t always work).


Published in: on 14 March 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zarr, Sara & Tara Altebrando. Roomies.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

Lauren Cole of New Jersey has just graduated from high school and is headed for UC-Berkeley in a couple of months. She’s an only child, living with her neurotic mother, her father having left them years before when he discovered he was gay. She can’t wait to escape to the West Coast. Elizabeth Logan of San Francisco is also headed for Cal, which is only twenty-five miles away for her, but it’s still an escape. She’s one of six kids, the other five all being very young, so that she’s more or less an assistant parent. She loves her family but she can’t wait to get away, too.


Published in: on 28 February 2018 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Spufford, Francis. Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

It’s the fall of 1746 and Richard Smith has just arrived in the colony of New York from London, bearing with him a note of exchange for £1,000 which he intends to convert into cash at the London mercantile firm’s New York associate, Lovell & Co. That’s a lot of money — there isn’t that much in specie in the whole of the town of New York — and Lovell insists on waiting until the confirming letters arrive, so he can be sure he isn’t being scammed.


Bagieu, Penelope. Exquisite Corpse.

NY: First Second, 2015.

Bagieu is a relatively new French graphic novelist with a not-huge output, but she has already made her mark among both readers and critics. Zoe is a Parisian in her early 20s, working as a spokesmodel at auto shows, and introducing new brands of cheese, and whatever else turns up. Not much of a job but it’s a living. Except then she has to go home to her slobbish skinhead boyfriend, who always leaves his socks on when they have sex.


Published in: on 30 January 2018 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.


Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

NY: Random House, 2000.

I have no excuse for the fact that this marvelous Pulitzer-winning epic sat on my “To Read” shelf for most of a decade before I got around to it. Once I started it, though, I found it difficult to put down. I’m ordinarily a fast reader (I never skim, I just take large mouthfuls of text), but this one is more than 630 pages of dense narrative, so it took awhile. You’ll want to read slowly and savor Chabon’s use of the language as well as the immense amount of social history and artistic detail he packs into every scene.


Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear.

NY: DAW, 2011.

The first volume of this engrossing fantasy trilogy-to-be ran close to 700 pages and it took me longer than usual to read because I took my time and thought about what I was reading. Rothfuss’s multilayered style has that effect. This second volume is 1,000 pages even and, again, I took my time. The Chronicler has come to Kvothe’s small-town inn in search of his story, which the legend-covered man known as “King-Killer” decides it’s time to tell, in all its many facets.


Published in: on 24 December 2017 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.


Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hiaasen, Carl. Star Island.

NY: Knopf, 2010.

Hiaasen, the off-the-wall conscience of Florida environmental politics and a very funny writer, couldn’t produce an actual bad book if he tried. That said, this one is nowhere near his best. The subjects this time are the nature of celebrity in modern America (one can be famous just for being famous, as Paris Hilton has demonstrated), the real world of the paparazzi (they know they’re considered the scum of the earth and they don’t care), and rampant real estate development (who needs another wildlife refuge anyway?).


Published in: on 12 December 2017 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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