Castle, Jennifer. You Look Different in Real Life.

NY: Harper-Collins, 2013.

This is an unusual sort of YA novel and a very enjoyable one. Justine is a sixteen-year-old student in a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley, and back when she was six, she and four of her schoolmates — all of them rather different from each other, of course — were chosen to star in a sort-of documentary film about what typical kids go through in the process of growing up. That film won awards and made them semi-famous, and the couple who filmed and produced it decided to do a series of sequels, five years apart, until the kids reached adulthood.


Published in: on 21 December 2018 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Green, John. Paper Towns.

NY: Dutton, 2008.

Green is one of the more “serious” authors of Young Adult novels. He doesn’t do frothy romances, but rather in-depth explorations of the teenage psyche and the often harrowing process of trying to become an adult, and this is an excellent example of that. It’s not a long story, only 120 pages, but the complexity of the thinking behind it and the density of the narrative make it feel like three or four times that length.


Fuller, David. Sundance.

NY: Riverhead Books, 2014.

Among other things, I’ve been a more or less professional genealogist for more than fifty years (an obvious interest for a big-city librarian with several history degrees), and because I have an interest in the so-called Old West, I’ve spent some time researching some of the better-known Good Guys and Bad Guys thereof. That includes Robert Parker and Harry Longbaugh, better known to most Americans as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both were killed by the Bolivian army in 1908 — right?


Silverberg, Robert. Dying Inside.

NY: Ballantine, 1972.

Robert Silverberg has been one of science fiction’s most active authors and editors for most of the past fifty-odd years and his work falls largely on the “intellectual” end of the SF spectrum. He’s done fantasy and space opera, but his most important books are those that investigate the human mind and condition, and often with only a relatively thin science-fictional skin. This one began with the title, originally a New York-Jewish idiom, and the author decided it referred in his case to a character with something literally dying inside him. Not an organ but an unusual mental ability, like telepathy.


Published in: on 6 March 2018 at 9:03 am  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. California Dreamin’.

NY: First Second, 2017.

This is one of those books that’s going to mean quite different things to you depending on how old you are. I grew up in Texas in the ’50s, a much bigger fan of Jerry Lee than of Elvis, and I had no use at all for those floppy-haired guys from England with all their “yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then I went to Northern California for a couple of years in the early ’60s just as beach-rock and folk music was being invented. I saw Baez in concert. PP&M came and played on campus for free, just for laughs.


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.


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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Kleid, Neil & Nicolas Cinquegrani. The Big Kahn.

NY: NBM Publishing, 2009.

The author and artist of this graphic novel are both new to me, though they seem to have a body of work already on the market. It’s kind of a strange one, too. The story opens with the funeral of Rabbi David Kahn, who helped establish New York’s Congregation Beth Shemesh, served as its leader for many years, and was a noted figure in the community. And his eldest son, Avi, presently his father’s assistant, is the obvious choice for the job.


Published in: on 24 November 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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