Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: The seventh son of a seventh son, Alvin Miller is destined for greatness if he can only survive the plots of the Unmaker who stalks him. Review: I loved the alternate America created by Orson Scott Card in Seventh Son, where folk magic abounds and George Washington had himself executed as a traitor after liberating the colonies. The American Indian tribes are the seventh state in the compact creating America, and the French are nowhere to be found. It’s lovely to read a work…

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The Killing Doll by Ruth Rendell

Synopsis: A lonely young man sells his soul to the devil so that he will grow tall, but it’s his troubled sister who falls under the sway of the occult. Review: The Killing Doll is an odd little book, with more horror elements than can usually be found in a Ruth Rendell crime novel. I’m used to the pettiness of her characters, but usually there are one or two who engage me. I really didn’t connect to any of these people, and was glad when…

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Just An Ordinary Day by Shirley Jackson

Synopsis: A collection of unpublished and previously uncollected short stories by the reigning queen of gothic Americana. Review: Short stories are not usually my cup of tea, because they’re over far too quickly. But I’ll read anything that Shirley Jackson writes, and I really enjoyed the stories found in Just An Ordinary Day, which I’ve been reading in fits and starts for several months. Oddly enough, my favorites were among the unpublished pieces. In particular, I greatly enjoyed “My Recollections of S.B. Fairchild,” about a…

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Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Synopsis: Two years after the death of her famous writer husband, Lisey Landon must return to the other world where he both drew his inspiration and unearthed his demons in order to defeat a madman and put her husband’s legacy to rest for good. Review: I listened to the audiobook of Lisey’s Story, narrated by the incomparable Mare Winningham, and this was actually my second encounter with the book, which I have read once before. It’s one of King’s most ambitiously intimate stories, delving deep…

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Just Grace and the Snack Attack by Charise Mericle Harper

Synopsis: An energetic, intelligent, and thoughtful third-grader embarks on a class project to learn all about the potato chip, and along the way learns how to make a zine and deals with some conflict with her best friend. Review: I definitely fell in love with the titular protagonist of Just Grace and the Snack Attack. She’s just a great kid–and author Charise Mericle Harper brings her to life by filling the book with Grace’s lists, drawings, musings, and adorable humor. I loved the way it…

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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Synopsis: The true story of a young man who gave up everything to live off the land in Alaska, only to die a painful death by starvation. Review: Into the Wild was a quick, fast-paced read that left me both satisfied and wanting to know more. Christopher McCandless’s decision to go his own iconoclastic way towards a wanton death seems crazy to most of us, yet author Jon Krakauer paints such a full picture of his personality that there doesn’t seem to be anything more…

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Homework by Margot Livesey

Synopsis: Celia’s relationship would be perfect, if it weren’t for her boyfriend’s troublesome young daughter, and when she moves in with them, Celia finds herself caught in the middle. Review: Sort of a chick lit version of The Bad Seed, Homework combines splendid prose with a lackluster plot. I could see where it was headed a million miles out, and it didn’t surprise me at all. I was hoping for more, with such strong characterizations and enjoyable writing. Share on Facebook

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The Surrogate by Kathryn Mackel

Synopsis: A childless couple contracts with a lonely drifter to carry their sole remaining embryo, but little do they know that the baggage she brings includes criminal connections and demonic possession. Review: The Surrogate was simply terrible. Cardboard characters, overstuffed plotting, and an implausible storyline just really got on my nerves. Share on Facebook

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