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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Published in: on 16 April 2018 at 4:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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Belle, Kimberly. The Marriage Lie.

NY: MIRA, 2016.

This appears to be the author’s third novel, though it’s the first I’ve of her, and she certainly knows how to write an exciting and occasionally emotionally wrenching story. Iris and Will have been very happily married and living in Atlanta for the past seven years and they’ve finally decided to start trying for a family. Will is a software designer of considerable skill and he’s flying off to be keynote speaker at a professional conference in Orlando — but then a plane from the same airline bound for Seattle goes down and Will’s name is on the manifest. Iris is devastated. It can’t be him, right? Why would he have been going to Seattle?

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Published in: on 27 March 2018 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Penny, Louise. The Long Way Home.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

For the past couple of books in this stellar series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Surete’s homicide division, has been struggling to save both his job and the Surete itself. And it all ended with the arrest of the premier of the province and with Gamache being forced to personally kill his boss. It was all just too much and though Gamache won, finally, he also retired to a cottage in the almost Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, where most of the series has been set.

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Sawyer, Robert J. End of an Era.

NY: Tor, 1994.

Sawyer is the best-known Canadian author of science fiction — one of the most successful Canadian authors of any kind, actually — but I’ve always found his books rather uneven. Some are absorbing while others (like the “WWW” trilogy) are almost unreadable. This early effort is right in the middle of the pack.

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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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Clowes, Daniel. Patience.

Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2016.

Clowes is probably best known for Ghost World, but he’s done a number of other graphic novels, too. This one is sort of science fiction. It’s 2012 and young Jack Barlow, who is scraping a living by handing out flyers on the street, comes home to find Patience, his wife, murdered. The cops decide he did it, and he spends many months in jail before they give up trying to make their case and cut him loose.

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Tomine, Adrian. Killing and Dying.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.

I’ve become quite a fan of Tomine, one of the best graphic novelists around, although what he produces are actually graphic short stories. Graphic fiction has to be successful both literarily and visually — otherwise there’s no point — and while Tomine’s art is first-rate, his storytelling skills are even better. His stories are entirely realistic, exploring the lives of the people next door. The quality of the writing is such that I don’t doubt he could leave out the drawing altogether and sell most of the six in this volume to New Yorker. What I especially like is that he doesn’t just tell you everything. You have to look and listen and fill in those often subtle gaps for yourself.

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Dessen, Sarah. That Summer.

NY: MacRae Books, 1996.

I discovered Dessen’s Young Adult novels awhile back and was taken with her abilities as a storyteller. She’s done about fifteen of them now, all of them very popular, and I had been reading them pretty much at random. I decided it was time to go back to her first published effort to see how her work had evolved.

Haven McPhail is fifteen, a high school sophomore somewhere in the southeast U.S., and she’s very tall. It’s now late summer and she’s grown four inches just since April, putting her a hair under six feet. This is one of the three main facts of her life.

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Published in: on 8 August 2017 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Along for the Ride.

NY: Viking, 2009.

I only recently discovered this author, whose books are marketed as Young Adult, but I’m very impressed with her work, period. She considers themes and issues of interest to teenagers, but they should also actually appeal to any reader who is interested in people and how they interact with each other. And Dessen never, ever writes down to her readers. She expects you to pay attention and think about what you’re reading regardless of your age.

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