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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!

 

The Dread Line by Bruce DeSilva

I am a Bruce DeSilva/Liam Mulligan fan so it saddens me to say that The Dread Line was disappointing. Liam Mulligan, newspaper reporter turned private investigator, is working on three cases simultaneously: a jewel robbery from a local bank, a person who sets live dogs on fire (how the heck DeSilva thought of that one is beyond me, but it’s sick) and performing a thorough background check on a potential NFL draft pick. None of these individually is overly interesting so the combination of the three doesn’t make them any better.

What I also found disconcerting was the time span on the book. The three cases took roughly nine months, which would be unusual for any case, especially a background check, no matter how thorough. And talk about contrived endings–the conclusion of each case was totally out of the blue.

The Dread Line contains none of the lamentations about the demise of printed newspapers, none of the repartee between Mulligan and his former boss/nemesis “Thanks Dad” Mason and none of the action or suspense that earned DeSilva an Edgar Award for best first novel for Rogue Island. The characters are shallow. The best characters are Brady and Rondo, the two dogs Mulligan rescues from an animal shelter. And while dogs are normally cute, they shouldn’t be the ones carrying the book.

So, unfortunately DeSilva does not live up to his potential in The Dread Line. I will anxiously await his next book in the hopes that he finds his groove again.

Mad Enchantment by Ross King

I’m not a non-fiction fan but I am an Impressionist fan, Monet in particular. But the cover of Ross King’s book and the book’s title, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies both convinced me the book was worth a try. I’ve seen some of Monet’s water lily paintings and they are magnificent.

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

I never really pictured Monet, never thought about his life or personality. I never thought about whether he was self-absorbed, whether he suffered for his art, how old he was when he passed away.

Ross King brought all of that into perspective. Mad Enchantment really covers the second half of Monet’s 80+ years, and paints an interesting, yet disturbing portrait of the artist (no pun intended). While I still hold Monet in high esteem for his talent, the (unearned) accompanying esteem for him as a person has diminished greatly. Instead, Monet comes across as a whiner, a self-centered individual who used his friends, fame and connections rather than cultivating them.

Image result for monet's water lilies

Ross describes art critics’ reviews of Monet’s works and I found very interesting, in particular, their discussion of the water lilies. Apparently water lilies represent the female form and so these water lilies represent women, especially nude female models that Monet’s jealous wife Alice wouldn’t let him paint. (I’m thinking they let their imaginations run wild!)  Art critics!

Monet was temperamental and prone to outbursts of such magnitude that he would slash and burn paintings by the hundreds. I can’t imagine his output if so many paintings were destroyed. At the same time it appears he was a perfectionist which explains the magnificence of his works.

In the end, Monet did suffer for his art. He had cataracts and one theory is that his constant viewing of his ponds with the sunlight reflecting off might have been a cause of the cataracts. What could be worse that an artist with impaired vision.

All in all, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies was an enlightening read.

When Lina’s mother, photographer Hadley Emerson, is on her death bed, she makes Lina promise her one thing: that she will spend a year in Florence. Hadley’s year there was the best year she ever had. She then begins talking about Howard, a boyfriend who still lives in Florence, who she has never mentioned in Lina’s seventeen year life. Lina begins to wonder why Howard is being brought up all of the sudden.

loveandgelato

Hadley dies in the middle of the school term and Lina decides to finish out the term living at her best friend Addie’s house. Before she is reluctantly ready to go, her grandmother tells her that Howard is actually her father. How could this be…that he could be her father and never, ever contacted her?

It is with reluctance and trepidation that Lina flies off to meet her father for the first time.

There is something to be said for the predictable…as long as it’s readable, both of which are Love & Gelato, Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel. Of course, how could you be in Florence (or any part of Italy for that matter) and not meet up with romance and heartbreak? Lina meets up with both.

Welch also throws in a few (predictable) curves but that doesn’t diminish Love & Gelato‘s enjoyment factor. Lina and her love interest, Ren, are good characters, as is Howard. If you’ve ever been to Italy (as I was a long, long time ago), the book conjures up some of those long forgotten memories and visuals.

And you can’t forget the taste of gelato. Even thinking about it makes my mouth water. So, even though winter is closing in, there is always room for gelato…and love.

Dead Joker by Anne Holt

When Chief Public Prosecutor Sigurd Halvorsrud’s wife, Doris Flo, is found decapitated in the Halvorsrud living room with the Chief Public Prosecutor covered with blood by her side, things don’t look good for him. He also waited an hour before calling the police. He says however, that he did not commit this heinous crime but knows who did…Stale Salvesen, a man he’s never met and has no idea really what he looks like. Upon initial investigation, the link between  Halvorsrud and Salvesen is tenuous to say the least, and unfortunately for all involved, Salvesen can’t be found.

DeadJoker.jpg

As the weeks pass, little to no new evidence is uncovered but what is uncovered is harmful to the defendant. When a second decapitation is discovered and Halvorsrud’s fingerprints are in the room, he is re-incarcerated, having been released due to family health crises.

Throughout Dead Joker, Anne Holt interweaves potential red herrings such as child molestation, bribery, unethical behavior, etc.

According to Series.com, the Online Guide to Series Fiction, “Anne Holt is one of the most successful Norwegian crime writers.  Trained as a lawyer, Holt has worked in broadcasting as a journalist and anchor woman.  She also spent two years working in the Oslo police force before opening her own law practice.  She has written five novels in the Vik/Stubo series.  Johanne Vik is a Norwegian-American psychology professor and former FBI profiler. She is the divorced caretaker of a mentally challenged six-year old. Adam Stubo is an Oslo police inspector who is recovering from the deaths of his wife and young child.  Together they are a formidable team. Holt has also written a series of eight crime novels starring lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen.  Scribner seems to be releasing them in the U.S, but not in the correct reading order.  1222 (Scribner, 2011) is the second book in the series.  The Blind Goddess (Scribner, 2012, published in Norway in 1993) is the first.  It introduces Hanne and tells how she became paralyzed. All of Holt’s mysteries are well-written and suspenseful.They feature fully drawn characters and plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere.”

Dead Joker is the latest in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, published in 1999 in Norway and 2016 in the U.S. Hanne Wilhelmsen is police officer extraordinaire! She is aided by a half dozen officers, one of whom is Billy T., her best friend. She is under a lot of pressure both personally and professionally, and as a result gets away with treating these coworkers quite shabbily. Dead Joker, however, is not really a police procedural in the vein of, say Icelander Arnaldur Indridason’s Detective Erlendur series. There was not a lot of procedure in the book.

Dead Joker concentrates on interpersonal relationships…between Hanne and her partner, Cecile, between Billy T and his soon to be wife, between Karen Borg, an attorney, and Hanne, etc. I cold keep going. However, having never read a Hanne Wilhelmsen book before, not knowing the backstory detracted from understanding what was going on, especially between Hanne and Cecile. As per Series.com, the “characters do seem fully drawn and there is plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere”, however, some backstory would be helpful for the uninitiated.

So, now I’m moving on to another Scandinavian (Icelandic) author, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. and her first book, Last Rituals. The books seem to be published in order in the U.S. and not with decades between the Scandinavian and U.S. editions. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten

For those of you who are fans of the Swedish TV movies in the Irene Huss series (very few of you, I’m sure, but you should be), if you’ve watched Episode 7, you’ve seen a scaled down and revised version of Who Watcheth. On TV it was called Anyone Who Watches in the Dark. Published in Sweden in 2010,  the book is only making its way to America in 2016.

WhoWatcheth

Two bodies have been discovered, the victims strangled with a commonly used cord, washed clean with some sort of detergent and wrapped in plastic. Forensics have found cat hairs on the tape around the plastic and some oil coating on the plastic as well. Initially, there seems to be no connection between the two victims other than the fact they are female and are in their mid-forties.

A search also uncovers a survivor of a similar attack who is able to describe the form of attack as well as some characteristics of the attacker-strong, smelly. Certain occurrences are common to the two murders as well.

Huss, Jonny Bloom, Fredrik et al of the Goteborg Police have their hands full.

A side story concerns acts of vandalism and violence against Huss and her family. Considering Huss has her hands full investigating the strangulations, she’s ill prepared for handling her own issues. This side story is given short shrift in the televised version of the story.

The ending of the story is actually one of my favorites and I’ll tell you I happen to like the TV ending better. Although they are very similar, they are not exactly the same.

 

 

 

Election Day

vote

Anything by Ellen Wittlinger and anything taking place in Cape Cod is worth at least a glance. So, of course, Local Girl Swept Away was on my reading list.

Lorna is the ring leader. She leads and her court (Finn, Lucas and Jackie) follow. She needs their adulation. They need her spontaneity and lust for life. So it wasn’t uncommon for the foursome to go out on the rocks at the edge of Provincetown in the driving rain, Lorna, as surefooted as can be, speeding ahead of the others. However, they stood motionless when all of the sudden Lorna disappeared and moments later they saw her white jacket drifting in the water, floating away from them.

Lucas, the poorest swimmer of the group, dove in but the tide pushed him back to shore. Finn, Lorna’s boyfriend, stood motionless, as did Jackie.

Local Girl Swept Away tackles many things, foremost the remaining trio’s attempts to live life without Lorna to guide them and goad them. A huge part of their lives was lost.

Entering their senior year in high school, college applications loom. Jackie, the daughter of a fisherman, wants to go to art school, an impractical career for a ‘poor’ girl. Finn whose parents are wealthy, faces the opposite opposition, wanting to become a fisherman rather than attend college.

The foursome are all interesting characters and a few others are thrown in as well. Having been to Provincetown, Wittlinger’s description of the town and its residents, both permanent and seasonal, brings back great memories. Herring  Cove Beach and Race Point (which she doesn’t mention) are two favorites. As Wittlinger says in her author’s note, “[Provincetown] is a three-mile long hodgepodge of a town where variety is the spice and diversity is the norm. There is no place like it.” It is the perfect place to people watch.

My first Ellen Wittlinger book was Razzle and then I was hooked. Blind Faith is one of my favorites although they all are great reads. I hihgly recommend Local Girl Swept Away.