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.

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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?).

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Published in: on 12 December 2017 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Colgan, Jenny. The Bookshop on the Corner.

NY: HarperCollins, 2016.

Colgan has turned out a number of thematic romances — the story being set in a cafe, or a bakery, or a chocolate shop, or whatever — but this one caught my eye because the setting was apparently a bookstore and the protagonist a librarian. Actually, the original British title, The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After, is much more accurate, since there’s no corner to be found, and the “shop” is actually a large ex-bakery van fitted out with bookshelves.

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Published in: on 14 November 2017 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Taylor, Jodi. A Second Chance.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2014.

The “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, about time-traveling British historians in the not-too-distant future, has more than a few strange elements, including a bit of mythological fantasy thrown in (Kleio, the Muse of History, is also the Director’s steely-eyed PA). This third episode takes the mix to a whole new and rather complicated level.

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Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.

NY: Viking, 2011.

Dessen is a first-rate author whose novels are directed at young adults but which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys a good story and thoughtful writing, regardless of age. The protagonist of this one is seventeen-year-old McLean Elizabeth Sweet, who was named after her basketball-fanatic father’s favorite college coach. But then the coach retired and his younger replacement ran off with McLean’s mother, which kind of soured both of them on the sport.

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Perry, Thomas. Strip.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Manco Kapak is a middle-aged, relatively low-ranking gangster in Los Angeles and he takes it poorly when he’s robbed while personally making a late-night deposit of the receipts from one of his dance clubs. If people in his gray world begin thinking he’s an easy mark, it will damage his reputation badly. Especially since he’s also laundering drug money for the Colombians, and they can smell weakness.

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Eisner, Will. Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories.

NY: Norton, 2007.

Eisner is very much the godfather of the modern graphic novel. There’s a reason the field’s most important award is named for him. This fat compilation volume brings together five previously published pieces, two of them quite long, which are drawn from his own life and ancestry — and if not entirely in a factual sense, then in tone and in general approach.

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Tayor, Jodi. A Symphony of Echoes.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2013.

The first volume of the “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, Just One Damned Thing After Another, was a hoot — a galloping time-travel adventure larded with British-style understated humor and peopled with some of the most original and entertaining characters I’ve seen in a while. This second outing mostly avoids the problems that are common with sophomore novels, continuing the story of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Institute a generation or two in our future.

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Published in: on 10 October 2017 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen Sarah. The Truth About Forever.

NY: Penguin, 2004.

I’ve become a fan of Dessen’s books, which are marketed as “young adult” but the themes of which are of interest to all readers. While there’s always a romantic element, it’s never cut-and-dried and absolutely never clichéd. Certain themes recur, too: The sibling who is either much more perfect than the narrator, providing a role model it’s impossible to live up to, or else a complete disaster, which reflects on the sibling and makes her life more difficult.

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Gaiman Neil. Norse Mythology.

NY: Norton, 2017.

Like Gaiman — like most of the geekier sort of adolescent boys, in fact — I went through a period of reading everything I could find about mythology as a kid, beginning with Edith Hamilton’s classic work on the Greeks and Romans. But, also like Gaiman, I developed a strong preference for the Nordic deities — Odin, the All-Father, who is very wise but can’t be trusted, and Thor, not the sharpest god in Asgard but a good person to have on your side, and especially Loki, who seems the most human of the gods with his talent for making mischief. And there’s Ragnarok, the final battle in which the gods will be destroyed so that the world can start over again.

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