Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.
Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer: I picked up this double biography of Eleanor & Alice Roosevelt because, I mean, look at that tile! How could I not? It turned out to be (as far as I could judge) a well-researched and well-written look at the complex intertwining lives of these two cousins. Peyser & Dwyer examine the ways in which each woman lived up to her reputation, as well as the ways in which she didn’t. They also look at the long-standing feud between them, and the ways in which this both was and wasn’t reflected in their actual relationship. Definitely recommended for people interested in early 20th c. American history, or women’s history, or complicated family dynamics. My only quibble is that the authors seem reluctant to talk about the wider social ramifications of, say, Theodore Roosevelt and his beliefs and policies in favor of a mostly-positive personal portrait.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: I picked this one up after reading and loving LaCour’s more recent Everything Leads to You. The Disenchantments has the quirky, artsy, adventure/quest that I enjoyed in ELtY, but for me it lacked some of the depth of character that I saw in that book. Then again, it’s also true that this book falls into the pattern of a boy interacting with an unattainable, brilliant, and unknowable girl. It’s well written, and yet the pattern itself annoys me; if anything, I wanted this story from Bev’s point of view. Still, LaCour’s prose is smoothly enjoyable and the story as a whole does a nice job of looking at that transition from high school to college, as well as the realization that the adults in your life are actually human and complex.
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller: The Devil You Know has been very highly praised by several people I trust, and I really liked Doller’s previous books. This one is part coming-of-age, part romance, and part mystery. I had two somewhat different reactions to it. First, like Dessen’s Saint Anything, I thought Doller did a great job of writing an extremely readable book, which also takes on big issues. I really admired the way she wrote this situation where things slowly start to unravel. And the fact that Cadie is never judged or shamed for the choices she makes also was great. On the other hand, I figured out the mystery really quickly. That said, this is 1) a book written for teens and not for mystery-obsessed adults (me) and 2) not the reason I was reading this book and therefore wasn’t as much of a problem as it might have been. So despite that fact, I would definitely recommend this one if you want that combination of big topics and readability