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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!

 

Daniel Sullivan has not been good to his women, starting with his college girlfriend and ending with his current wife. He doesn’t know a good thing when it’s staring him in the face. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, author of Instructions for a Heatwave, is primarily his story.

O’Farrell uses time skipping to show current and past circumstances of both Daniel’s and his current wife, reclusive former film star Claudette Wells’ relationships to their parents, spouses, siblings, etc.

The locales shift among Donegal, Ireland (where he and Claudette live), Brooklyn (where his parents live), Los Angeles (where his ex-wife and children live) and England (where he went to college). The story begins with Daniel traveling back to Brooklyn for his father’s funeral, a father he never really got along with. On the spur of the moment, he diverts his travels to Los Angeles to see the children he hasn’t seen in ten years, initially because his ex-wife wouldn’t allow it and later because of the distance separating them. His travels then take him to England in search of answers to a question plaguing him about a former girlfriend–much to Claudette’s dismay. This was a pivotal point in their relationship.

This Must Be the Place is all about relationships; Daniel’s with girlfriends, spouses, friends, family and Claudette’s with her former lover, her brother and Daniel.

One very disconcerting technique O’Farrell uses is the “…little did he/she know that such and such happens to this particular character later on…”, supposedly making the current action more meaningful. I just found it annoying.

I liked Claudette, Daniel not so much, their respective children somewhat interesting. I can’t say that I loved. This Must Be the Place, but I did finish it (predictable ending) so that must mean something. I guess my problem was that not liking Daniel made it difficult to want to know what happens to him. Juxtaposing that, liking Claudette made me want to finish the book…which I guess ultimately won out.

To conclude, having really liked Instructions for a Heatwave, I found This Must Be the Place somewhat disappointing.

The 12 episode series Detective Inspector Irene Huss is based on the novels of the same name authored by Helene Tursten. On a lark, I picked up a copy of the first book in the series when I was at Northshire Books in Saratoga in June and enjoyed it. When I found out about the TV series, my compulsive nature forced me to interloan the first three episodes.

At first I thought the video version was pretty light fare. Episode 2 is a VERY scaled down version of the first book in the series, the cover of which is shown above. But, I’ll tell you, by episode 4 or 5, the stories become pretty gruesome. I never thought about all the many ways serial killers can stalk and murder their victims. Yikes!!!! It is certainly living up to the high standards of its Swedish brethren.

What’s also nice about this series is that I’m meeting some old friends. Angela Kovacs (Irene Huss) was also on the Swedish version of Wallander as Ann-Britt Hoglund. Also, Dag Malmberg (Hans on The Bridge) plays Jonny Blom in Irene Huss. So, while I’m waiting for Series 3 of the Bridge to air or Series 2 of Mankell’s Wallander to arrive from another library, I can watch the last three episodes of Detective Inspector Irene Huss in anticipation of great things to come. (Note, after I wrote this, I started Episode 10 and decided to skip that one. Things are getting too close to the Huss family for my liking.)

T sum up, the Irene Huss TV series and the Irene Huss book series are worth your while. You should be forewarned that nine of the twelve TV episodes are based on the actual books.

 

 

Frank Marr found teenager Amanda Meyer quite by accident. He was searching the house of known drug dealers, to replenish his own supply, when he happened on Amanda, naked except for panties, handcuffed and chained in the bathroom.

SecondGirl.jpg

Not knowing what to do since his search was illegal and for nefarious purposes, he decides to take Amanda to his sometimes boss, attorney Leslie Costello, and let her contact the police. Of course that’s putting her in a bad position, but Frank’s drug supply is getting low and he needs to get back to the house to find and confiscate the stash for his personal use.

Unfortunately, his plan somewhat backfires when Leslie, his also sometimes girlfriend, calls him. The parents of Amanda’s neighbor, hearing of his success in finding Amanda, want to hire him to find their missing teenage daughter, Melanie. Frank doesn’t do missing persons, but feeling somewhat obligated, he agrees to meet with them in Leslie’s office and ultimately takes their case with the proviso that if no new information is unearthed in a week, he’ll stop the search.

As readers of The Second Girl by David Swinson will soon find out, Frank took early retirement from the police force, ostensibly for being stressed out. However, we know better (it’s surprising that his former police contacts don’t know better). He is addicted to drugs but apparently knows how to control it so he’s fooling everyone, including his sometimes sleeping partner, Leslie. As a private investigator he doesn’t need to follow the same rules the police are required to follow. As a result, he gets results that the police may find hard to obtain.

Frank’s investigation takes him to the drug lords and prostitution rings of the greater Washington, D.C. area. There’s plenty of fighting, breaking and entering and surveillance. Frank is a decent character, as are his police cronies. The story moves along nicely.

My only criticism is the amount of drug references. We know Frank’s an addict but I don’t necessarily need to know on a daily basis what drugs he’s taking, what alcohol he’s washing it down with, what combination of drugs offsets a high high with a not so low low. And please, to fool everyone he knows? I don’t think so.

So my suggestions to former police detective Swinson, is that you’ve made your point regarding Frank’s addiction. Now minimize how much we have to read about it and carry on with what could be a good series. You’re a much better writer than many other ex-detectives who have decided to write mysteries.

 

 

Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings

Having attended a Jazz Jennings interview during the American Library Association annual conference in June (and having scant prior knowledge of who she is–I’m probably the only such person in the world), I was impressed. She was your typical fifteen year old, other than the fact that she was being interviewed primarily regarding her LGBT advocacy. And while I didn’t have time to stand in the (long) line to get a copy of her book autographed, it sparked an interest. (Lucky thing I’m a librarian and can order books for our collection.)

BeingJazz

I said in my post about Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston that there are serious books describing various, sometimes debilitating, trauma experienced by victims of rape, bullying, etc. However, similar to Hermione in Exit, Jazz has the benefit of strong family and friend support and so her transgender experience is vastly different and probably vastly better than many young girls and boys in similar situations. Both books are very positive.

In Being Jazz, Jazz describes the early feelings of being a girl in a boy’s body, wanting to wear girl’s clothing and play with dolls instead of trucks. She describes not being able to use the girl’s bathroom (it was interesting that the Orlando Convention Center had several unisex bathrooms), not being allowed to play on the girl’s soccer team. Yet, in the background, her parents were fighting the fights required to change the rules. I’m sure many (most) parents of transgender youth don’t have the knowledge or resources (time and money) to do all that the Jennings did.

She describes the onset of depression and how she handles it. She talks about friendship and shows a lot of spunk and self confidence when saying if someone doesn’t love her for who she is, then the friendship isn’t worth pursuing. She talks about the awards she’s won and the people she’s met.

Despite her experiences and the associated maturity, Being Jazz has the feel of being written by a fifteen year old (there’s no ‘with assistance from ___’ in the credits) and that’s good because maybe other fifteen year olds will be inspired by it…more so than if an adult wrote about being transgender.

No such book would be complete without a resource listing. Being Jazz includes the following: websites, depression outreach services, books for kids, books for teens and adults, educational books for parents of a transgender child and movies/tv.

All in all, Being Jazz was an enjoyable and educational read. It could be and should be a primer about what transgender means and how trans kids are no different than any other kid, having the same hopes and dreams.

 

If you’re looking for a good, general, all around anthology of short story detective fiction then I’d recommend the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino. It will give novice and experienced mystery readers a good foothold into detective fiction.

LongmanAnthology

The book is divided into three sections: The Amateur Detective, The Private Investigator and The Police. Each section begins with  a critical essay and commentary (which I skipped). There are also two appendices: Notable Annual Awards for Mystery and Detective Fiction and a Bibliography of Critical Essays and Commentaries.

But the heart of the book is stories. Each section contains stories by some of best authors, classical authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, pulp authors of the 1930s-1950s such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ed McBain and current authors such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Peter Robinson.

There is a short author bio before each story, suggested books by the author and suggested read-alike authors. Granted, there are some great mystery authors not included in the anthology, but if all the greats were included it would be a thousand pages, just like Otto Penzler’s Black Lizard books.

The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction is an entertaining way for mystery fans to spend some time. It also makes readers appreciate the art of the short story. Go for it.

Jack and Libby. Libby and Jack. Two teenagers with issues. Jack has Prosopagnosia and can’t recognize faces, even of those who are close to him…even his girlfriend, which has caused him problems in the past. He’s identified other means of, sort of, recognizing people, but it’s certainly not fool proof. Libby was once dubbed America’s Fattest Teen and had to be lifted out of her house by means of a crane. Currently half her former size, she’s still a big girl, subject to the taunts of her high school peers.

Libby, having been the brunt of a cruel joke perpetrated by Jack, punched him, so they are both destined to serve time in the Conversation Circle after school, where they and several other teens discuss their behavior, among other things. It is there that they get to know each other and find out what makes each other tick.

Libby is still mourning the sudden death of her mother five years earlier, an impetus to her spiraling weight. Jack knows about his father’s affair and is trying to hide both this and his Prosopagnosia from the rest of the family. Can two people with issues come together and understand each other?

Jennifer Niven came on the scene in early 2015 with the critically acclaimed All the Bright Places in which she tackles suicide and bipolar disorder. In Holding Up the Universe, she tackles another subject affecting not only teens. Living in an era in which match-stick thin is a sign of beauty, being a larger size can have a dramatic impact on a person’s self image. Libby, however, knows who she is after having lived through a period during which she never left her home. She’s proud of who she is and wants to the world to know she is loved and wanted and just a great person. She, in turn, tries to instill that confidence in others.

While I enjoyed reading Holding Up the Universe, I found Libby to be too rah-rah. Is that possible given her past? Yet maybe that’s what’s necessary to let the world know that self worth isn’t inversely proportional to weight. On the other side, I don’t know how Jack  made it through life without anyone knowing of his disability. It seems incredible. In looking back, I also had an issue with characters in All the Bright Places.

Niven has put together an interesting supporting cast, most of whom ring true. All in all, Hold Up the Universe was an enjoyable read.

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.

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