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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Scheer, Kodi. Midair.

NY: Little A, 2016.

The author teaches writing at the University of Michigan, and this may or may not be her first published novel, but it’s not a bad effort. It’s also quite short — barely 200 pages — but she packs a lot into it. It’s the summer of 1999 and Vanessa Baxter is eighteen, a recent high school graduate from a semi-rural Chicago suburb, and she has just arrived in Paris with three of her classmates. Her single-parent family, unlikely those of her friends, has no money to speak of, but the girls managed to find sponsors for the trip and now they’re settling into a tiny short-term apartment on the Île de la Cité. Nessie is the brainy one, and also one of the class rejects.

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Baker, Mishell. Borderline.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

I’ve been a heavy reader of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’m much pickier about fantasy. Tolkien, for instance, doesn’t do a thing for me. I do like a lot of “urban fantasy” though, and Baker, whose first novel this is, is a welcome new addition to that sub-genre. Here she tells the story of Millicent Roper, who is barely getting along a year after a badly failed attempt at suicide when she was a film student at UCLA. Millie went off a seven-story building and survived (unintentionally) by crashing through a tree, but the fall cost her all of one leg and half the other one, and now she has to deal with prosthetics and a cane and a wheelchair. On top of the that, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and some days she can barely hang on. And she’s in a private therapeutic facility but the money’s running out.

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Gruen, Sara. At the Water’s Edge.

NY: Random House, 2015.

Gruen is best known for Water for Elephants, but this novel, her fifth, is rather different. It’s January 1945 and Maddie Hyde is a wild child in New York society. She’s been married to Ellis for a couple of years now, but she’s really more of a mascot for him and his best buddy, Hank, than she is a wife. Also, her in-laws hate her, her own father ignores her, and she feels guilty for her scandal-ridden mother’s suicide a decade before.

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Pratchett, Terry. The Shepherd’s Crown.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the fifth and last book about young Tiffany Aching, Witch of the Chalk and Wee Hag of the Nac Mac Feagles. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a year, waiting for me to read it, because it’s also the last book by Sir Terry that I will ever be able to read for the very first time. And that’s a hard thing to do. Since it also begins with the death of Esme Weatherwax, the most powerful and by far the most influential witch on Discworld, it’s also about death and about replacing the irreplaceable: The last lesson Terry wanted to teach us.

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Ashford, Lindsay Jayne. The Woman on the Orient Express.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2016.

It’s a historical fact that in the fall of 1928, still recovering mentally from a very painful divorce and not wanting to be trapped by the press in England when her ex-husband married his mistress, Agatha Christie, already famous as the author of ten mystery novels (and also for her public bout of “amnesia”), anonymously crossed the Channel and boarded the Orient Express, headed for Baghdad.

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Spark, Muriel. Memento Mori.

NY: St. Martin, 1959.

It’s the late ’50s in London, and what with two world wars during their lifetimes there are a lot of now-elderly middle and upper-middle class widows around. A dozen of them, either old or infirm or both, inhabit a row of beds at the Maud Long Medical Ward, all of them resentful at being patronized by the staff as “Granny.”

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Published in: on 20 February 2017 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hill, Reginald. Arms and the Women.

NY: Delacorte, 1999.

Detective Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel, head of Mid-Yorkshire CID, and his able right hand, the more intellectual (and liberal) DCI Peter Pascoe, have been at their jobs a long time. Together with the notably ugly (and gay) Sergeant Wield, they constitute a well-oiled machine when it comes to solving crimes. But this time, the guys are sidelined somewhat by the ladies.

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Waters, Sarah. Tipping the Velvet.

NY: Penguin, 1998.

This was apparently Waters’s first novel and it sort of sets the pace for the five books (so far) that have followed. It’s 1888 and eighteen-year-old Nancy Astley spends her days help her family run its oyster business in Whitstable, down in Kent. Though it’s only an hour or so away by train, none of them have ever visited London, but Nance frequents the Palace music hall in nearby Canterbury and knows all the tunes and the comic turns from the big city.

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Robinson, Peter. When the Music’s Over.

NY: Morrow, 2016.

This is the 23rd installment in the professional adventures of DCI Alan Banks of East Yorkshire CID and I’m pleased to see that the series continues as strong as ever. Things change, though, and Banks has recently been promoted to Detective Superintendent, which involves more meetings and much more paperwork than he would like. But he’s not going to let that keep him from getting closely involved in his team’s cases, of which there are two this time.

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