Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen.

NY: Viking, 2006.

I’ve become hooked recently on Dessen’s highly literate YA novels, and this one is one of her best so far. Even though I’m a grandparent, I’m also a lifelong librarian and recommender of books to all sorts of readers, and that includes teenagers, so the purported target readership doesn’t faze me. A book is either well-written or not.


Published in: on 22 June 2017 at 11:47 am  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.


Dessen, Sarah. The Moon and More.

NY: Viking, 2013.

Dessen has won a number of awards for her novels and frequently appears on “Best of the Year” lists — but always as a “Young Adult” author. That’s a form of ghettoization I try to avoid. I consider her simply a first-rate author of highly enjoyable fiction, period. Her eleventh book is about 18-year-old Emaline, plowing through her last summer at home, working in the family’s three-generation beach-rental business before heading off to a nearby state university. A perfectionist, highly organized (she was the only 5th Grader with her own filing cabinet), and a naturally helpful sort, she’s very well liked in the little coastal town of Colby (which feels like North Carolina), and she knows absolutely everyone.


Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.


Hill, Reginald. Dialogues of the Dead.

NY: Delacorte, 2001.

This long-running mystery series (of which this is the 17th volume) started out in 1970 as nothing remarkable. Well enough written, but pretty standard stuff about the detecting adventures of the bluntly profane and bearlike Superintendent Dalziel, head of Mid-Yorkshire CID, and his sidekick, the university-educated Peter Pascoe — originally a detective sergeant, now a chief inspector. Later, we met Sergeant Wield, who is gay, the ugliest cop in the country, and has a mind like a computer.


Mackler, Carolyn. Infinite In Betweeen.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the first of Mackler’s YA books I’ve read and it’s not bad. The structure is a little strange, but it seems to work. The focus is on five kids in a town in central New York as they make the journey through four years of high school. In freshman orientation, as an “ice-breaker,” all the new students are broken into groups of five to share some kind of socially useful activity.


Sawyer, Robert J. Quantum Night.

NY: Ace, 2016.

Sawyer is a problematic author. He’s written some first-rate, exciting, well-thought-out science fiction, but he has also produced some terribly clunky, sappy, almost unreadable stuff. This one, I’m happy to say, is one of his best. Sawyer is not in any way a trained scientist — he’s been trying to be a writer since high school and his other jobs seem mostly to have been in bookstores — but he understands the writer’s trick of studying a subject in depth until you sound like you know what you’re talking about.


Published in: on 25 December 2016 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pelecanos, George. Right as Rain.

NY: Little, Brown, 2001.

This is the first volume in what became known as the “D.C. Quartet,” widely considered this author’s best work to date. The two protagonists, who share certain experiences but have far more, and deeper, differences, are Derek Strange, a black ex-cop and private investigator in his fifties with a quarter-century of practical experience on the street, and Terry Quinn, a white guy in his late twenties recently departed from the Metro police under a cloud who is marking time in his life by working in a quiet used bookstore.


Asimov, Isaac. Pebble in the Sky.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1950.

I believe this book was my introduction to Isaac Asimov, so I must have read it around 1954 — the same period during which I was discovering Heinlein and Simak and Groff Conklin’s fat anthologies of short stories by every important writer of the period. More than six decades later, I’m pleased to find that the story holds up quite well.


Boyd, Damien. Head in the Sand.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2015.

This is the second outing for Detective Inspector Nick Dixon, homicide specialist with the Avon and Somerset Police, and while the first book, As the Crow Flies, wasn’t bad at all, this one is considerably better. The author is apparently getting the hang of this stuff, and the books are gradually getting longer, too.


Published in: on 4 October 2016 at 7:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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