The Next Best Thingby Jennifer Weiner: Weiner's novel is based loosely on her experiences producing a short-lived sitcom for tv; as such, it gives one an insider's look at show business (to which I say, "blech"). It is a fun and light novel, better written and more interesting than a lot of other "chick lit," as is generally true for Weiner's work. However, she includes at the end of the book the short story "Swim" which focuses on a different aspect of the heroine, and I think I'd have preferred a novel more about that than Hollywood.
The Ocean at the End of the Laneby Neil Gaiman: short and engaging enough that I read the whole thing late one night when I should have been sleeping. It is an inventive and scary story with some thematic similarities toCoraline.
The Magiciansby Lev Grossman: Superficially, this book is a cross between Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, but it would be a mistake to leave it at that. The point of those two series is the stories they tell, the skirmishes and battles between good and evil. The Magicians, by contrast, is more interested in how the introduction to a magical world affects a person -- the longing for a life as interesting as a fantasy novel, the benign contempt for ordinary people, the sense of entitlement the privileged develop. It also touches on the danger of magic -- or any power or talent -- without a sense of purpose. Even the most talented magicians must find meaning to their lives, and a way to cope with both dramatic events and ordinary days.
The Briar Kingby Greg Keyes: A straight-up fantasy novel (the first of four) about another world, like I haven't read in a long time. Keyes's novel tells the story of kings, princesses, foresters, innkeeper's daughters, monks, and dashing swordsmen as they become aware of a grave danger to their world. My only quibble: in the prologue it becomes apparent that the humans, who were brought to this world by an evil race bent on enslaving everybody, are the "lost" colony of Roanoke. This plot point, however, appears to serve no function at all in the greater story, and ends up being a little distracting as one can't help but try to match different cultures to their European counterparts (which makes no sense anyway; Roanoke was settle by the English only).
Friends, Lovers, Chocolateby Alexander McCall Smith: The second in the Isabel Dalhousie series, but the first I've read. It's a quiet book with an unusual but low-key mystery, leaving lots of time for Isabel's musings on ethics, faith, love, and Scotland. I enjoyed it, but feel no need to read any others in the series.