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I adopted a puppy almost a year ago, not realizing how completely she would consume pretty much every waking hour of my life. I had time to read, but gathering my wits to write a blog post with complete sentences and decent syntax was beyond me. Ah, but now she’s nearly grown, housebroken, and reasonably trustworthy when I turn my back to write for a couple of hours. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be writing and blogging again. So . . .

I’m cheating a bit by giving you six mini-reviews, but these are the books I’ve most liked over the last six months and they’re all good choices for vacation reading. So here’s a little more quantity and a little less verbiage. I think there’s something here for everyone.

Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen
This is my favorite book so far this year. Set on a farm in a county where time is running out, it is ruminative and probably not your cup of tea if you want lots of ups and downs and a surprise ending. Quindlen can write those books, but this one is a family story, recounted by the youngest and smartest person in it. If you are 50 or more, the world Quindlen has created will really resonate; her attention to the sights, smells and sounds of everyday life back in the day is wonderful to behold.

Before The Fall, by Noah Hawley
This book is destined to be a movie, probably starring someone like Bradley Cooper. I was hooked from page one, which was too bad because it was a preview and the book didn’t come out for months. But when it did, it did not disappoint. It’s not great literature, but it’s a great read, full of familiar characters in the world of television news (or what passes for it), politics (or what passes for it), and the moneyed and cultured classes everyone loves to hate. Just don’t start it on an airplane!

Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo
I count on Russo to make me laugh at the same time he’s pulling on my heartstrings. This is the sequel to “Nobody’s Fool,” and it was great fun to pick up with this familiar pack of almost-losers. Do I want them living next door? Absolutely not. But I’m more than happy to spend a few days laughing about the trouble they manage to get into, rooting for them to get out of it, and marveling that they actually do get out of it. Publisher’s Weekly nailed it when they called the book a “shaggy dog story of revenge and redemption.”

The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler
I’m a sucker for books about time travel, past lives, and secrets that hide in plain sight. This dual tale is set in a sliding-down-the-hill house in today’s world, as well as in a past world recounted in the pages of a journal/ledger kept by the irresistible Hermelius Peabody, a larger-than-life character connected to a troupe of travelling entertainers long ago and far away. I usually  become bored with descriptive passages, but Swyler’s prose is compelling. I was surprised I loved this book, but love it I did.

The Rosie Project: A Novel, by Graeme Simsion
I am including this book knowing some readers will be offended by it because (though never directly stated) it seems clear the protagonist, Don Tillman, suffers from some form of autism. He is a handsome, successful and smart genetics professor whose social skills are not even close to what passes for acceptable in today’s world. His world is filled with lists, tables, and formulas to enable him to meet a woman he can marry, and he’s baffled that his system is not working . It took me a couple of chapters of wondering “should I be reading this?” and “should I be laughing at this?” before I settled in and just rolled with it. Ultimately, it charmed me and I felt like I was privileged to be in his world.

Opening Belle, by Maureen Sherry
Every summer needs some chick lit, and here it is. This is what happens when a single, talented, and extremely frustrated woman gets shafted one too many times by her male counterparts in a Wall Street firm. This woman gets both mad and even – with everyone. It’s dishy, funny, irreverent, and some of the characters are probably dead on. And it’s been optioned by Reese Witherspoon for a movie. Slather yourself in sun block and get ready for a perfect beach read.

I’ll be back soon!