Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin: Zevin is a ridiculously talented writer. Her books are so varied, and they’re always interesting and well-written. I wasn’t wildly interested in Young Jane Young based on the synopsis – a young political intern has an affair with the much-older, married congressman she’s working for, a la Monica Lewinsky. And yet I couldn’t put the book down. Zevin tells the story in five distinct sections from different points of view – the intern’s mother, the intern herself (years later and having changed her name), the intern’s daughter as she discovers her mother’s past, the congressman’s wife (who stayed with him through the affair’s aftermath), and then, finally, the intern herself as she goes through the affair, in a unique choose-your-own-adventure section. Zevin’s insightful commentary on slut-shaming, feminism, and the challenges of being a woman are spot-on and never preachy, just an intrinsic part of the story she’s telling. VGR
Daisy in Chains, by Sharon Bolton: Excellent psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. Hamish Wolfe is locked up for life for the abduction and murder of three young women. He is hoping to convince Maggie Rose, a reclusive lawyer and true-crime author, to take up his appeal. VGR
I’ll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios: Good YA Contemporary. Skylar is desperate to escape her stifling small town, Creek View, and is headed to college with an art scholarship. Josh, a Marine, is back in Creek View after losing his leg in Afghanistan. Despite their differences, they form an unlikely friendship (and more). Well written and a nice break from so many of the YA Contemporaries that feature upper middle-class teens.
On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman: Lipman never disappoints. This might not be her strongest novel, but it was still very enjoyable. Faith works in a development at a private school. She has a close-knit family and a loser fiancé who has decided to walk across the country in a bit of a mid-life crisis. Her boss is an idiot, her father is a philanderer, and she has just bought a sweet little house on Turpentine Lane in which several murders may have been committed.
The Reluctant Queen, by Sarah Beth Durst: I feel like this series is not getting the attention it deserves. This book was even stronger than the first, with a highly unusual heroine for the fantasy genre – a middle-aged mother. Daleina is dying and doesn’t have an heir in place. Naelin, a mother and wife in a remote village in the woods, has incredibly strong powers that she doesn’t know how to use or control. Ven, the Queen’s Champion, finds Naelin and tries to coax her into training to be the queen’s heir. Great characters, great story, can’t wait for the next book in the series! VGR
Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo: Alia Keralis, a Greek/African-American teenager, is drowning when Diana saves her life. Diana ends up leaving her island with Alia to try to save her from her fate as a Warbringer, someone whose existence inspires war and terror all over the world. Fabulous story focusing on the power of friendship, with strong doses of humor and emotion, and great characters. VGR
The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld: This book was not what I expected, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read it in the middle of moving. A moving story of death-row inmates and some of the people who inhabit their lives, narrated by an inmate in a haunting, lyrical style.
The Last Magician, by Lisa Maxwell: A dark story of alchemy and magic that mostly takes place in the early 1900s in New York City. Esta has the ability to move through time, and her mentor has been sending her all over the 20th century to gather various magical objects. There was a lot going on in the plot, and the time travel got really twisty, but it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book. VGR
Sourdough, by Robin Sloan: Lois is a software engineer at a tech firm in San Francisco that makes robotic arms. Her life is nothing but coding and drudgery until one day she orders dinner from a hole-in-the-wall operation run by two brothers. She starts ordering from them every night until they suddenly have to leave the country. They leave her with their sourdough starter, and Lois learns to make bread with it, opening up her entire life to change. A fun read! VGR
Wild Bird, by Wendelin Van Draanen: Terrific YA from Van Draanen about 14-year-old Wren, who is wrested from her bed in the middle of the night as her parents turn her over to a tough-love wilderness therapy program in Utah. Wren has been drinking, doing drugs, stealing, and basically ruining her life, and what I loved about this story was that there wasn’t some big, dark reason for her mess of a life. It started with her being unhappy and making the wrong friend, and grew from there as I think things so often do for teens. VGR
How to Find love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry: Sweet Cotswald romance about a young woman, Emilia, who takes over her father’s bookshop when he dies. Like Jill Mansell’s novels, the story has a main heroine but several nice side stories going on.
The Names They Gave Us, by Emery Lord: Another good offering from Lord. A pastor’s daughter is questioning her faith when her mother’s cancer recurs. She goes to work at a camp for troubled children and makes new friends and goes through a lot of personal changes and growth.