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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!

 

I’ll start off, up front, by saying The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein is a great book. But who would expect less from the author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

Fifteen year old Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart has returned home for summer break to help her mother and grandmother pack up their household. Her grandfather’s recent death and the realization that they had lost their fortune forced them to sell their centuries old castle, Strathfearn, near Perth, Scotland to a school and construction was under way to convert the house and property to its new use. On her first day home, lying on Drookit Stane, a standing stone in the River Fearn, she is hit over the head and is unconscious for several days. Euen McEwen, a Traveller, a nomadic Scottish group, found her and brought her to the hospital.

Simultaneously, Professor Hugh Housman who was cataloging the antiquities of the household, mysteriously disappears. Julia remembers seeing him in the river, naked, prior to being clonked on the head and many feared that he had drowned, either on purpose (since his advances were recently rebuffed by Solange, Julia’s governess) or by accident.

The Pearl Thief is an amazing story combining Scottish folklore with a coming of age story with a little history with a small mystery. It takes place during the summer of 1938. The Travelers or Tinkers as they’re called (since many sell tin and other metals), are similar to gypsies and have that same derogatory connotation. They are not well regarded by the Scots yet have a long history in the land. The McEwens, especially, were friends with the Stuarts and Julia’s and Euen’s mothers played together as young children.

Wein contrasts the ‘haves’ of Julia’s upper crust gentry status with the ‘have nots’ the McEwens who live from day to day, traveling to where there is work, typically farming. Yet it is the Travelers whose philosophy it is that it is better to give than to receive.

Part of the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Wein is her descriptions–of the land, the history, the mythology. Her story traps you and her language reels you in. I can’t give this book and Wein’s other young adult books, enough accolades.

LAPD Detective Renee Ballard was relegated to the ‘late show’, the midnight to 8 AM shift, after her allegation of sexual harassment against her supervisor, Lieutenant Olivas, was dismissed. Her former partner, Ken Chastain, did not back her up, although he saw the entire episode.
TheLateShow
On patrol with her new partner, Jenkins, one night they answer a robbery call in which an elderly woman fears that her credit card was stolen. Additionally they are called to the scenes of the brutal beating of a transgender prostitute and to a multiple shooting at a local club. Wile Jenkins is satisfied doing his eight hours and going home to his sick wife, Ballard is eager to perform real detective work and volunteers to officially pursue the robbery, while deciding to  investigate the other incidents on the sly, in the case of the shooting against Olivas’ direct order to ‘stay away’. Evidence prompts her to theorize that the shooter was a police officer and Ballard naturally assumes Olivas is the culprit…a dangerous path for her.
This is the start of a new police procedural series by Michael Connelly, creator of Harry Bosch. This lackluster entry pits the driven Ballard against a hostile Olivas. (I’m not going to say who wins.) An interesting character, Ballard is a tame female version of Bosch, caring and driven to finding the truth at all costs.
However, the quick and tidy solutions to the robbery and beating are anticlimactic. An early reference to Bosch was totally gratuitous. While the action builds in the second half, it is half-hearted.  while I’m sure Bosch and Connelly fans will clamor for Ballard, she’ll need a little more grit to survive.
P.S. It’s telling when the best character is Lola, the boxer mix dog that Ballard rescued!

Cats have nine lives but Samuel Hawley has twelve. Twelve bullets have penetrated his body and each one has a story. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is primarily a story about a man and his daughter.

TwelveLives

The book starts with Hawley and his twelve year old daughter, Loo’s (Louise), move back to Olympus, MA, home of Loo’s mother, Lily. Sam and Lily’s mother, Mabel Ridge, were never on good terms and that didn’t change with their return. Hawley decided that life on the go, never settling in one place for long, was not appropriate for either him or Loo. So they settle into Olympus, neither one used to living among people.

As their lives go forward over the five year span of the book, there are flashbacks to each of the bullets making their physical and emotional mark on Hawley’s body and how each of them propelled him forward to the present.

The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is a touching story with love, suspense, growing up, awakening. The various characters are really fleshed out and all will grab your attention. Tinti has written a totally unique story. I can’t even think of a readalike. I was hesitant at first but since the book was highly recommended, I thought I’d give it a try. Now I can highly recommend it to you.

Alice bought Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. It was a lark, a gag gift. But of course, as you can guess, it was a winning ticket–$141 million, $50+ million if taken in a lump sum.  Both Alice and Teddy have had their share of trouble. Alice’s parents died when she was young, within 13 months of each other. At the age of nine, she was uprooted from her California home and relocated to Chicago, to live with her Uncle Jake (her dad’s brother), Aunt Sophia and cousin Leo. Teddy’s gambler father walked out on him and his mother, draining their bank accounts, forcing them to move into a small one bedroom apartment, pinching pennies to get by. So, they deserve something good to happen.

Alice, in unrequited love with Teddy for ages, hopes that the Teddy she knows and loves is unchanged with his new found wealth, but of course, that isn’t the case. Suddenly he’s on a buying spree, buying everything he doesn’t need.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (author of The Comeback Season,  Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, The Geography of You and Me, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, among others)  is a ‘self discovery’ book. Alice, having a idealized memory of her parents, is trying to please them by doing volunteer work and applying to Stanford where her mother got accepted but could not attend. Is this what she really wants?

Her cousin Leo’s boyfriend is attending college in Michigan, where Leo is applying. But is that what he really wants?

And Teddy is spending money like he’s got millions, with no particular goal. Is that what he really wants?

The three teenagers all learn who they are and what family is in Windfall. As you read, I doubt you’ll be surprised by the end. It’s what you’d expect. It’s what I expected, but not what I wanted. I’m a big Jennifer E. Smith fan, beginning with her first book The Comeback Season, and you’re guaranteed a fun, readable story. But, in this instance, I wanted a surprise ending. I wanted her to go out on a limb. I wanted her to give us the unexpected, but I didn’t get it and that disappointed me. While the cliche is “it’s the journey, not the destination”,  in this instance I wanted the destination to warrant the journey and I didn’t quite get it. But still, I did have fun along the way.

SPOILER (maybe)

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I was rooting for the underdog!

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Sawyer!!!!!

It was hard to believe that someone could write 227 pages on library card catalogs, but in reality, three quarters of those pages are photos. Written by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures includes a short history on the evolution of the card catalog and is mostly a venue to display various books in its collection (mostly first editions)…alongside of which is a copy of an index card from a card catalog. This is all fine with me.

TheCardCatalog

For those of us who are library users, the card catalog is a thing of the past…unless, like me, you have one in your home. Those user friendly little index cards detailing the pertinent information about a book have gone electronic and there is no more flipping through cards to find what you’re looking for…as lamented by various authors and poets when asked to sign catalog cards of their works for an exhibit.

The various great libraries of the world, especially the one in ancient Alexandria, needed some way of cataloging their holdings. As writing surfaces evolved from papyrus to codex to paper, the ability to catalog library holdings improved, both from the framework of the writing implements as well as the system by which items were cataloged. Most of us are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System and some of us with the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The Library of Congress itself evolved from a library to support the fledgling United States Congress to becoming the premier library in the world, supplying cataloging information to libraries worldwide.

One tidbit of note: in the initial training programs for librarians in the United States, the penmanship of an index card used for cataloging purposes was one of the courses.

If you’re looking for some easy reading about books or want to learn a little bit about the cataloging of books, The Card Catalog is an enjoyable two day read. Book lovers will enjoy this immensely.

 

Lorna Belling has issues. Her husband, Colin, is abusive. Her only hope is her lover, Greg, who assures her he will divorce his wife and take Lorna away from Colin.

NeedYouDead

Meanwhile she’s selling everything of value to squirrel away money to move to Australia where her sister lives, just in case. However, some guy she wants to sell her car to keeps saying he’s transferred the money through Paypal but she hasn’t received it. He keeps threatening to reveal her love affair to her husband if she doesn’t turn over the car or refund his money.

But the worst…looking at one of her beauty parlor customer’s vacation photos, she recognizes Greg and a woman, presumably his wife, lovingly looking into each other’s eyes. Realizing Greg has been lying about everything including his name, Lorna vows to ruin him. While waiting in the bathtub at their hideaway for their next tryst, she’s thinking of revenge. When he walks in she screams her intention. In a fit of rage he bashes her head against the bathtub wall, causing her to become unconscious, blood spurting everywhere. Unsure if Lorna is dead, he flees. Returning later to a corpse, he plots to incriminate Colin.

The question, not answered until the very end, is “Who is the murderer?”

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, assigned to the case, appoints a young protege, Guy Batchelor, as Senior Investigating Officer partly because it will be good experience for Batchelor and partly because Grace will be in Germany meeting Bruno, the 10 year old son he never knew he had from his first marriage.

Need You Dead by Peter James, the thirteenth Roy Grace book after Love You Dead (all the titles in the series contain the word ‘Dead’), packs a punch. Suspects and red herrings abound and Grace, Batchelor and the investigative team follow the plentiful leads. Grace’s attention alternates between the case and the psychological impact on Bruno of his mother’s suicide and his subsequent move to England. This British police procedural has action, car chases, gory deaths and more. Something for every mystery fan.

Need You Dead is totally satisfying, although I do have one small criticism. The narrative glosses over how the murderer and Lorna originally met.  James ranks with other British mystery writers such as  Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter and Peter Robinson (although Need You Dead has no cold case component to it). If you’re already a Roy Grace fan or you’re looking for a new mystery series, try the Roy Grace series. At 13 books, it won’t be hard to start at the beginning and work your way through them. However, Need You Dead, stands pretty well on its own.

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

Having been diagnosed as being unstable, she sees no alternative but to return to her husband until she realizes, on the spur of the moment, that she can merely walk out of the building. She walks and rides, her destination the port city of Kerdruc in Brittany (I’ll let you read the book to find out why) where, of course, marvelous things happen.

As in The Little Paris Bookstore, TheLittleBretonBistroThe Little French Bistro (apparently called The Little Breton Bistro in the French version–click the link for a little more detailed synopsis), there are many lost souls in Kerdruc and Marianne touches the lives of each of them in ways she could never imagine. In the course of doing so, she discovers herself and realizes/hopes that at 60 years of age, it is not too late to live a full and happy life.

Ms. George has created memorable characters from the boorish Lothar to Simon, Jean-Remy and all the inhabitants of Kerdruc. She weaves some mythology and superstition into her narrative, told in the third person. She balances Marianne’s desire to be independent for the first time in her life against her desire to be loved as she or any woman deserves, also for the first time in her life.

The Little French Bistro has love and loss. It covers many of our basic emotions. It attacks our universal stupidity in matters of the heart. It begs us to reach out.

While Ms. George, at times, can get a little wordy over love and its importance and the consequences of its success or failure, she creates an interesting world that I’ve not read about before. I’ll caution readers here, as I did in my review of The Little Paris Bookshop, that this really isn’t a guy’s book. But, on the other hand, it is a charming book and maybe any male readers brave enough to try it, might learn how to treat the fairer sex.

Ms. George’s books are quite the pair and you can’t go wrong reading them both.