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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!

 

When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided by Emery Lord begins with Vivi throwing her pill over the cliff into the ocean and carving “Vivi Was Here” in an old tree trunk. From this beginning we, the readers, are waiting for the inevitable crash in Vivi’s life because we can make an educated guess as to what that pill was supposed to do.

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Vivi should stand for vivacious (which according to the Merriam Webster dictionary derives from the Latin verb vivere or ‘to live’). She is the embodiment of it: sparkling, effervescent and spontaneous. And exactly the opposite of Jonah who, eight months after his father’s unexpected death, is trying with his two older siblings to keep the family of seven together. His mother stays in bed mostly. The ‘littles’ need to be dressed, fed, taken to school. Yet somehow this unlikely couple seems to work, partly because Vivi has seen some dark days.

Vivi is new to Verona Cove, having come from Seattle to spend the summer, and she loves it. It is a quaint little town; one you can really feel at home in, and Vivi wastes no time making her “Vivi Was Here” mark on the town. She inserts herself into the breakfast routine of loner police officer Hayashi while deciding to try the coffee shop breakfast menu in alphabetical order. She gets a job at the local potter’s shop. She envelopes Jonah’s family, having a profound impact on little Leah. Yet we know, the edge of the cliff is approaching.

Narrated in alternating first person chapters by Vivi and Jonah, When We Collided is the story of a remarkable girl and her impact on those around her. While having a major romantic element as do all of Emery Lord’s books, it also has a serious side to it as well, and in her Author’s Note at the end of When We Collided, Lord talks about mental illness, personalizes it, and provides relevant resources.

Emery Lord is part of my triumvirate of teen romance novelists, in the partnership of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.  So I would heartily suggest you read Open Road Summer and The Start of Me and You. And in her author bio at the end of the book, she says she lives with a blind beagle and a spaniel, so she obviously loves dogs. My kind of person.

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On a side note, Matson has a new book out entitled The Unexpected Everything. So there you have it. Your summer reading list has a great beginning.

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler is a warm-hearted coming of age story. Ashleigh Walker is going through a lot. Her parents are either silent with each other (and her) or bickering with each other. Living at home is intolerable. School is no better. It is what school has always been to teenagers: a boring pain. She has no boyfriend and no prospects.

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But things are about to change. At a party she meets Dylan, a cute boy who is interested in her. And at school, Miss Murray, the substitute English teacher is making English fun. Moreover, she seems to understand what teens, and especially Ashleigh, are going through. She seems to be able to look right inside Ashleigh and understand her emotions, her innermost thoughts and feelings. The more Ashleigh sees her, the more she wants to see Miss Murray. These feelings confuse her.

In an easy going but engrossing manner, Liz Kessler gets Ashleigh through her parents’ breakup, her sexual identity crisis and her friendships, both old and new. There was something about Read Me Like a Book that made me want to read it straight through. I didn’t, but only because I didn’t have the time.

Ashleigh and her best friend, Cat, are two extremes. The former is more reserved. The latter more wild. Somehow, the combination seems to work for both of them.

All of us need, but few of us find, someone who can read us like a book. It’s gratifying to know that Ashleigh found that person.

You’ll probably not find a bigger Peter Robinson fan than me so this review may be a tad biased. If that doesn’t bother you, then read on.

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series never fails to please and When the Music’s Over is no exception. Like most (all?) books in the series, it tackles both a current case and a cold or older case. In this particular instance, Robinson also tackles the ethnic hatred that currently seems to be running rampant throughout our ‘civilized’ world.

Mimsy (Mimosa) Moffat, wearing nothing but her birthday suit,  was thrown out of the van that barely stopped into a roadside ditch. She was able to gather herself up and begin limping toward help. When another van appears, Mimsy thinks it’s her savior. Little did she know.

Fifty years after the fact, noted poet Linda Palmer accuses famous entertainer Danny Caxton of rape.This comes on the heels of several other prominent and newsworthy cases of ‘historical abuse’ that have been litigated. (Does Bill Cosby ring a bell?) Of course Caxton denies it, saying that he had enough girls who voluntarily bedded down with him that he didn’t need to rape anyone, especially an under-age girl. Over the decades, his conceit hasn’t abated.

While Detectives Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson investigate the former case, Banks and Winsome Jackman investigate the latter. Along the way, Cabbot et al encounter the tension between the Pakistanis who have emigrated to their locale and the local ‘indigenous’ inhabitants who hate the Pakis, as they are called. Banks and Cabbot have their hands full, clues to neither case abounding. As you know, however, these two detectives and their crackerjack teams will solve the case.

After having read my first Inspector Banks mystery, my vision of DCI Banks was not at all like the actor portraying him, Stephen Tompkinson. (I pictured him short and stocky.) However, after years of watching the BBC program (according to IMDB there is a 2016 series–hopefully it will air soon), he has become the epitome of Banks as has Andrea Lowe come to personalize Annie Cabbot. So, of course, I had to include their photos. (SPOILER: For those of you hoping to see these two get together like I do, it doesn’t happen in When the Music’s Over.)

The DCI Banks series has the perfect set of characters, plots, action, romance, etc. It would be an unsolvable mystery how any mystery fan could  have not read any of these books.

 

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

If you want a great book about friendship, Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler is the perfect fit. No major realistic fiction issues. No abuse, neglect, rape, drugs, etc. Quite refreshing, actually.

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Reagan and Victoria are social outcasts for two vastly different reasons. Reagan is what most people would call trailer park trash, despite her 4.0 cum while putting in as many hours as possible at Joe’s diner. Vic on the other hand is of Latino descent in the lily white mid-Kansas town of Charytan. Having been expelled from school in Arizona, her professor parents moved the family to Kansas where they both found jobs at the local community college.

Despite their differing backgrounds, Reagan and Vic become fast friends, although each hide something of importance from the other. Having realized that the only way out of their personal hells is to go away to college, we come upon them (Vic actually) planning their college visits, knowing that they want to go to the same school and be roommates.

Reagan and Vic are a contrast in opposites. Reagan wears the same battered jeans and t-shirts while Vic is into fashion design, making her own clothes and looking gorgeous. Having been through a bad relationship, Reagan is avoiding boys while Vic wants to meet some hot boys. While Reagan is interested in classes and the library, Vic is interested in sororities.

To find out whether their dreams will be fulfilled and what stumbling blocks they encounter along the way (which they do, otherwise, why write the book?), you’d be wise to read Just Visiting, in some ways a more realistic portrayal of friendship and in some ways a more idealistic friendship. Nevertheless, we’d all be lucky to have such a friendship. In the meantime, let’s vicariously enjoy theirs.

P.S. A good end of summer beach read…Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.

 

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.

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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.