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I was at the American Library Association conference in Orlando last weekend and had a chance to exchange a few (very few) words with some of my author and illustrator idols:

They were all charming, of course. So, now for their latest books:

I’ll tell you that I love the books by these authors (except that I haven’t yet read anything by Laura Ruby but Bone Gap is on my reading list). The Margaret A. Edwards award (contributions to young adult literature) winner Anderson writes about current issues in Impossible Knife of Memory, Wintergirls and Speak. Readers can’t put her books down. Ashes is the third book in her Seeds of America trilogy about the Revolutionary War. She is truly impassioned about her subjects.

Jerry Pinkney is a marvelous award winning illustrator who has done wondrous things with his fairy tales The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare and Grasshopper and the Ants. Children and adults alike will smile as they read these books. He promised to continue as there are so many more fairy tales to tell.

Jordan Sonnenblick uses humor to discuss serious topics such as strokes, old age and cancer in Falling Over Sideways, Notes from a Midnight Driver, and After Ever After. The topics he writes about are ones you don’t see in young adult literature all that often.

Morgan Matson and Emery Lord are the masters of the summer romance (watch out Sarah Dessen!). Matson’s Unexpected Everything (review to come), Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance Summer are the perfect beach reads. (For some reason I’ve bought Matson’s last two books at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY…I’m not from there! Is this a trend?) Lord’s spin on romance and characters is unique in When We Collided (Vivi is such a great character) (review to come) and Open Road Summer. So get your reading chair, beach umbrella and SPF 50 ready.

You’ll have to wait until I read Bone Gap to know what that one’s all about. But if it is a Michael Printz Award winner, it can’t be all bad.

These six authors provide any kind of reading you want (serious, humorous, romantic, illustrious, mythical) to take you through the summer, into the fall and beyond. Happy Reading!

 

Claire is not having a good day. It is the Dad’s Dance at her dance school. It occurs when the students turn 14 and she and her dad have been looking forward to this for forever. Unfortunately she is watching all the other girls dance with their dads because hers can’t dance, not since his stroke almost a year ago.

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Falling Over Sideways flashes back to the events leading up to her father’s stroke and takes them forward to the present. The night before his stroke, Claire and her dad had an argument, Claire being the drama queen and her father making light of the situation. The next morning, when just the two of them were at breakfast, her dad stood up and, all of the sudden, listed to one side, mumbling gibberish. Panicking, she called her mother who, true to form, had her cell phone turned off. Next was 911. She rode with her dad to the hospital, all the while feeling that in some way, she caused the stroke.

As Jordan Sonnenblick has done with After Ever After and Notes From the Midnight Driver, two of my favorite Sonnenblick books, he uses humor to tell what is generally serious stories. Claire goes through so many stages: guilt at possibly being the cause of the stroke, denial, fear of the future, shame. She’s afraid to tell her best friends. She’s afraid to be with her father who is not nearly the man he used to be. All the while, Claire must deal with the trials and tribulations of middle school life, which we all know can be traumatic. Claire’s feelings and actions are contrasted with her mother’s and brother’s actions and emotions, since we know everyone handles trauma differently.

We tend to think that strokes only occur in older people, but Falling Over Sideways was inspired, in part, by a teenage friend of Sonnenblick’s son whose father had a stroke. Much of Claire’s actions and emotions are based on this.

Sonnenblick gets his point across without beating you over the head. Falling Over Sideways is a great read.

The forecasters told everyone not to worry, that the storm would blow out to sea. But, as we so often see, they were wrong and the small island of Haven (one ‘e’ short of Heaven), off the coast of New Jersey, got battered by Hurricane Sandy. To make matters worse, Mira Banul’s mother, Mickey, and younger brother, Jasper Lee, were at a mainland hospital for Jasper Lee’s weekly treatment.

Mira went to sleep listening to the rain and a strong wind. She woke up with the downstairs of her house flooded, dead fish floating in her kitchen, her second story deck alist and no way for her and Sterling, her recently adopted cat, to get their feet/paws on solid ground.

However, for some reason unknown to Mira, Old Carmen who lived on the beach during the ‘off-season’ and disappeared during tourist season, chose to rescue Mira. She threw Mira a life line that she could shimmy down. It was Old Carmen who took in the strays–pets and people–kept the fire going, caught fish to cook and kept vigil.

I realized after finishing This Is the Story of You that Beth Kephart creates wonderful main characters but extraordinary secondary characters: Old Carmen in This Is the Story of You and Estela in Small Damages (which you must read) come immediately to mind.

This Is the Story of You is a testament to people’s ability to survive and band together (especially in this current era of hate, fear and devisiveness) . It is about three best friends who care so much about each other. It is about a girl who is ‘medium’ at everything but stands strong in the face of adversity.

Although foreign to most of us, readers will picture living on the beach, seeing detritus floating on the ocean water, yearning to hear about news of neighbors and friends. They’ll feel the pangs of pain at not knowing, the uncertainty.

This Is the Story of You is a story about unity and trust and family and is a welcome addition to my Beth Kephart library.

 

Luisa (Lu) Brant has just started her term as the first female state’s attorney of Howard County, MD after beating her boss in the election. The fact that she is the daughter of a previous, well respected state’s attorney certainly did not hurt her at election time.

It is January 5 and there is a murder that needs attention. Lu decides to try the case herself rather than delegate to a staff member because (a) there are few murders in the county and (b) there are some interesting aspects to the case. The victim is a middle aged women, killed in an apparent burglary. Her new rule is the attorney trying the case must visit the scene of the crime, so off she goes.

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In chapters alternating between the present narrated in third person and Lu’s childhood narrated in first person, Lippman connects the present to the past. Interestingly, the the titles of current chapters are merely dates while those of the past have actual titles such as Oh Brave New World That Has No Trees In It, relevant to the action in the chapter. Additionally the type fonts are different for present and past.

As Wilde Lake (the name of a lake near her home) progresses readers learn about Lu’s life, the loss of her mother soon after her birth, living with her father and her brother, 8 years her senior, the supposedly idyllic life in Columbia, MD, a planned community. Readers will contrast her solitude with her brother’s charm and outgoing character.

But there are dark sides to their lives as well and how those dark sides play into the murder is the meat of Wilde Lake. I will admit that the connection might be somewhat strained, but I enjoyed the journey. I found especially interesting Lu’s recounting her childhood. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that Wilde Lake is more a character study than a mystery. There is little in the way of police procedural and forensics. It is more about the relationships of the characters. The story of Lu’s past has a more ‘literary’ feel to it than the present day chapters.

I will tell you that I only read (or tried to read) one other Laura Lippman book, Hush, Hush , a Tess Monaghan mystery, and made it through only 100 pages. So the fact that I finished this one and enjoyed it is certainly worth noting.

So, now that I’ve taken you around in circles, I’ll conclude by saying that I did enjoy Wilde Lake and do suggest you read it, not for its mystery but for its character study.

 

 

Another “my parents are divorced and getting remarried” book. In this instance, twelve-year-old Elizabeth (Fizzy) and her mother move out of the family home. Fizzy is a normal pre-teen, other than being a talented chef hoping to have her own television show one day. The simultaneous news that her father and his new wife, Suzanne, are expecting a baby and her mother plans on marrying her boyfriend, Keene, is an unwelcome jolt to Fizzy. With a new baby and a new husband taking all her parents’ emotions, Fizzy feels like leftovers—nobody likes them. Her only confidante is her father’s sister, Aunt Liz. Aunt Liz, a talented chef in her own right, suggests Fizzy enter the Southern Living Cook-Off. Fizzy readily agrees to prove to a doubting Keene that she can win and in the hopes that winning a major competition might make her dysfunctional family love her again.

TheThingAbout Leftovers

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne is a fun read about a serious topic. Blended families are prevalent and pre-teens and teens need to realize that, although their parents may be focusing their attentions on new families, it is not to the exclusion of the old ones. In addition, step-parents can love their step-children if given the chance. Learning to adjust to step-parents’ idiosyncrasies can be daunting. Having a support person, as Fizzy has in Aunt Liz, can make the transition easier. Children of blended families will relate to Fizzy’s thoughts and emotions. A thought provoking read for parents and children.

 

In William Wells’ Detective Fiction, Jack Starkey, ex-Chicago homicide detective is living the retired cop’s dream. He lives on a boat in Fort Myers Beach, FL, owns a bar, dates Marisa, a beautiful Latina, and is the basis of a successful mystery series written by a journalist friend.  When approached to assist the Chief of Police in nearby posh Naples with several suspicious deaths, he realizes he misses the action and accepts. Marisa suggests the only way to learn about the upper one percent is to become one, which is arranged by the Naples’ mayor. Average guy Jack Starkey assumes the persona of rich Frank Chance (named for the Chicago Cubs first baseman). However, living the good life yields no clues and the investigation stalls. He grabs onto the flimsiest of leads.

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Starkey is a guy’s guy, liking cars, shapely women and ballpark food. He is out of his element in Naples. The case almost takes a back seat to Starkey’s humorous commentary comparing the life of the elite to Chicago’s South Side, the Cubs and the Baby Doll Polka Lounge, his former hangout. The fact that the body count continues to increase and he must ultimately combine forces with a known gangster makes him seem like an amateur, but so what.  This novel is shouting ‘series’ which would be perfectly fine.

 

Edith Hind is missing. There is blood in her apartment and according to Will Carter, her boyfriend, the apartment door was open when he came home. Based on the evidence, the Cambridgeshire police deem it a ‘high risk misper’. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is on the case along with Detective Inspector Harriet Harper, and Detective Constables Davy Walker, Kim Delaney, Nigel Williams, Colin Brierly and newbie Stuart.

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Everyone knows that the first 72 hours after a crime or abduction are the most critical. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of new evidence as the hours, days and weeks progress. The police are stumped.

When a young man, Taylor Dent, is found murdered and his time of death coincides with Edie’s disappearance, Manon has the feeling that the two incidents are related. However, it’s a stretch…virtually impossible to link the two.

Susie Steiner has scripted an immensely enjoyable, mystifying mystery that is fast paced, thoughtful and well written. Missing, Presumed is a good police procedural with an equal amount of pavement pounding, forensics, hunches and team updates.

The cast of characters is totally believable, each having his/her own crosses to bear. Steiner skillfully addresses Manon’s ‘unattached at age 39’ trauma and her exploits in online dating. In some ways she reminds me of a younger version of divorced Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef in Inger Ash Wolfe’s Canadian mysteries. The fact that these detectives are ‘human’ gives the story a sense of reality.

I wouldn’t be upset if a follow up to Missing, Presumed is published one of these days. I’d like to follow this group of policemen and women for a while and watch them change and adapt.

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, Missing, Presumed is worthwhile.

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