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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!

 

Colin Dexter

It is with extreme sadness that I read about the recent death of Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse. I was a big fan of both the Inspector Morse books and TV series (somewhat less of a fan of the spinoff TV series Inspector Lewis).

ColinDexterJohn Thaw who was Morse and Colin Dexter

I highly recommend reading the books and watching the series. You won’t be disappointed. Below is a link to the BBC News obituary for Mr. Dexter. I hope he and Thaw are reuniting.

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-39342698

 

I’m in a quandary about The Paris Architect by Charles Balfoure. It is a well written book with a great premise…but…the description of Gestapo brutality to Jews, collaborators, those helping Jews or collaborators, while the truth, was just too much for me to read about. My brutality threshold is very low. Low enough that I couldn’t finish the book. On top of that, the thought of a character you like going through that brutality was enough to make me bag the book.

I first heard of Charles Belfoure at Librarian’s Day of Dialog at Book Expo several years ago. His  book, House of Thieves, was just coming out and it had a great premise. An architect by background, Belfoure’s books combine a love of buildings with an interesting premise, making them quite different from the ‘run of the mill’ books we constantly read.

In The Paris Architect, Belfoure transported a historical occurrence from the reign of Elizabeth I into World War II.  According to the Author Q & A at the back of the book, “During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholicism was repressed and the saying of Mass was outlawed. But priests…refused to obey and continued to worship in secret in manor houses. As a precaution, carpenters designed and constructed “priest holes” for them to hide in if the house was discovered.

In The Paris Architect, Lucien Barnard, an out of work architect is reluctantly recruited by Auguste Manet to build hiding places that would be undetected by Gestapo searching homes. The promise of bigger jobs through which Lucien can showcase his talent has an allure that he can’t refuse. He has no particular love of the Jews; just the opposite. He considers them worthless. However, as time goes on, the challenge of building more sophisticated hiding places, takes hold.

That’s enough of the plot. Belfoure’s love of architecture and buildings is apparent throughout the book…which is a part of what I enjoyed with House of Thieves. Belfoure flushes out his characters well. Some are likeable and some totally not. He builds a good foundation (pun intended) for a plot that keeps you riveted. And while I would like to see what happens to certain characters, when I start skipping chapters because of brutality, it’s time to put the book down.

In conclusion, if you have a high threshold for brutality and pain and if you like a well written book with a well crafted plot (who doesn’t) then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Paris Architect.

 

Times were tough in 1907 England and Beck’s mother did what she needed to survive. One encounter with a passing sailor resulted in Beck’s birth. He never knew his father. One month before his eleventh birthday, “…his grandparents and his mother and his daft kindly uncle all died in the flu epidemic. Anne [his mother] was the last to go.” Beck was taken to the Catholic orphanage, “…run by the methodically cruel Sisters of Mercy.” Being of mixed race, Beck was victimized both by the Sisters as well as other orphans. One March morning in 1922 he was transferred to the Christian Brotherhood Home for Boys. However, his tenure was short lived when he spurned the advances of one of the priests. He was unceremoniously put on a vessel bound for Canada to work on a farm, an activity totally foreign to him. His sponsors were cruel and bigoted and at the first opportunity, Beck escaped to wander through Canada trying to survive.

Beck, started by Mal Peet and completed by Meg Rosoff after his death, is a marvelous tale of a boy beaten down at every turn, whose self-image is destroyed by his ‘protectors’, trying to find his way in the world. It is an adventure story as well as a love story, although love is a foreign concept to him. Both Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff both are excellent writers as you can see by the quotes I included in this review. Readers will feel Beck’s torture, both physical and emotional. They will experience his physical hardships but will also rejoice when he discovers what true love is. Beck will be enjoyed by fans of Mal Peet, historical fiction and adventure.

Tamar and Life: An Exploded Diagram are the only Mal Peet books I’ve read, both of which I enjoyed. They are vastly different books from each other as well as from Beck. The publisher’s description of Tamar is: “When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever”. It, too, is full of adventure, has a romantic component, and is extremely well written. It is one of my favorite books.

My suggestion is: read any Mal Peet books you can get your hands on.

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

As Detective Inspector John Rebus, retired, talks to his medical examiner girlfriend, Deborah Quant, over dinner in the Caledonian Hotel restaurant, he recalls the murder there, over thirty years ago, of a young woman, Maria Turquand. The killer was never caught. With nothing but time on his hands, Rebus decides to investigate the case, imploring his former coworker, Siobhan Clarke to  bring him the cold case files.

RatherBeTheDevil.jpg

The day after Rebus chats with police officer, Robert Chatham, who years previously spearheaded a review of the case when new evidence was introduced, said Officer Chatham’s dead body was found washed up on shore, Rebus surmises it has something to do with his cold case.

How this cold case can be made to intersect with Clarke’s new assault and battery case perpetrated against known gangster Darryl Christie, only an experienced mystery writer such as Rankin can achieve.

Rather Be the Devil reunites Rebus with his co-workers, Clarke and Malcolm Fox. In addition, he meets up with his ‘friendly enemies’, Christie and Big Ger Cafferty. I haven’t read any of Rankin’s previous novels, so I was unfamiliar with the history of Rebus and his cohorts. While such knowledge wasn’t necessary to enjoy the book, it would have been nice. In addition, one arc of the story deals with issues surrounding Rebus’ health, which again, I had no familiarity.

The first 50 or so pages of Rather Be the Devil were a little slow, until the story got going. Then it was a reasonably fast read. The characters were well fleshed out, although I kept getting them confused with each other (Christie/Cafferty). The plot was interesting. Apparently Rebus never played by the rules, which he certainly does not in this episode.

While Rather Be the Devil was an enjoyable and satisfying read, I don’t know that I’d run out and start from the first book in the series (this is #21) or even line up to read the next in the series, if/when that is published. I think I’m more of a Peter Robinson/Inspector Banks fan.

In Sunlight or In Shadow is an anthology of short stories, each one based loosely or strongly on an Edward Hopper painting. As with all anthologies, some of the stories are good, some are less good and some I just didn’t like at all.

insunlight

Also, like all anthologies, some authors are well known (to me) such as Megan Abbott, Lee Child, Michael Connelly and Stephen King and some were unknown such as Jill Black, Nicholas Christopher and Craig Ferguson.

The stories average around 15 pages each and most are fast reading. For mystery fans, there are some series names making an appearance such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch whose story was clearly one of the better ones (which is rewarding because I haven’t loved the Bosch recent novels all that much).

However, the story I liked best was the last one, by Lawrence Block. the anthology’s editor, called Autumn at the Automat.

If you’re a Hopper fan, then you’ll enjoy seeing some of his paintings and reading how they’ve inspired the authors. If not, you’ll still enjoy some of the stories. The thing I like about short story anthologies, is that you can stop and start, skip or read, as you feel the urge. In Sunlight or In Shadow is definitely worth your time.

Run by Kody Keplinger

Agnes Atwood and Bo Dickinson make an unlikely duo. Living in the small town of Mursey, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, Bo has the white trash, slut reputation. Polar opposite is Anges, blind from birth, she is always accommodating, always good, never making a scene. But Bo is the only one who treats Anges like a normal person, not someone with a disability, so a strong friendship ensues.

So, when Bo’s meth head mother is arrested, Bo knows she is going into foster care, which is unthinkable to her. She needs to run and Anges agrees to accompany her, running from her over protective parents, who micromanage every step she takes.

Run by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, is a story about friendship, fear, and freedom.

Although a road trip by two sixteen year olds is an unlikely scenario, the story does keep you reading as both characters are memorable in their own ways. Bo, who has thick skin and takes what the townspeople dish out, is really the opposite. Anges, on the other hand, who has never made a fuss, realizes that in order to gain the freedom she so desperately wants and needs, she might indeed have to raise her voice to be heard.

Keplinger doesn’t sugar coat the ending…mostly. It’s not downright depressing nor is it syrupy sweet. It’s satisfying…mostly. Keplinger was raised in a small Kentucky town and that small town-ness is permeates the book. It is a fast read, I read it in three days. You will no doubt root for these two brave women. Go for it.

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

DCI Karen Pirie is still suffering from the recent lost of her policeman husband, Phil. She’s taken to late night long walks in the hopes that they would tire her out enough to enable her to fall asleep. It is on one of these walks that she meets of group of Syrian refugees warming their hands over a barrel with fire.

OutOfBounds.jpg

When Ross Garvie overturns his stolen Range Rover, killing his three mates and putting himself in a coma, his DNA comes up with a ‘familial match’ to the 20 year old unsolved brutal rape and murder of Tina McDonald. Unfortunately, there are hindrances to DCI Pirie pursuing the owner of the original DNA, one of which being Ross’ comatose condition.

Gabriel Abbott, a man who has ‘issues’ is found dead on a park bench, a bullet in his head and the murder weapon in his hand. While the angle he would have had to use in order to kill himself is awkward, after some investigation the death is ruled a suicide. Although, not her case, Pirie can’t get the idea out of her head that Gabriel’s death is somehow related to the death of his mother, over 20 years earlier, when the small plane she was flying in blew up, disintegrating it and the three other passengers.

Out of Bounds, this third Karen Pirie outing (I didn’t know there were two others) is an arresting read (pun intended). Pirie and her one assistant, Jason “the Mint” Murray, tackle complex issues regarding dissemination of DNA information, try to accumulate more than circumstantial evidence in their investigations, and go against their fellow police officers and her superior officer in order to get at the truth. The ensemble cast of characters, although typical (the rogue Pirie, the inept Noble, the antagonistic Chief Superintendent Lees (aka the Macaroon) and the faithful sidekick “the Mint”) keep the story moving forward nicely.

All in all, Out of Bounds is a good read and, while I may not go back and read the first two books in the series, I will continue reading the series as more books are published.

P.S. This book stands nicely on its own.