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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!

 

Konrad, a retired Icelandic police detective, is assisting in the investigation of the suffocation death of an elderly gentleman. Looking through his personal effects, Konrad finds yellowing newspaper articles regarding the murder of a young woman whose body was discovered in a box outside Reykjavik’s National Theater in 1944. Konrad is intrigued. Searching old police files, he finds scant information on the original case investigated by Icelandic Detective Flovent and Canadian Military Police Thorson. During the Second World War a large contingent of American and Canadian troops were stationed in Iceland and it was not uncommon for the fraternization of American soldiers and young Icelandic women.

Early on, readers learn the deceased gentleman is Thorson, who having unexpectedly uncovered new information on the seventy year old murder follows these new leads. While Konrad is trying to solve Thorson’s murder, he also retraces Thorson’s recent investigation. Simultaneously, readers follow the initial case as it moves forward, moving back and forth in time.

Arnaldur Indridason, the author of the Inspector Erlendur series, beginning with Jar City, continues his modus operandi of covering a current and cold case in this new series set during the war years. The inspectors, both during the 1940s and present, are formidable characters. The blend of police procedural with Icelandic folklore is intriguing. The premise captures readers and the dogged pursuit of the truth with its twists and turns keeps them riveted as the two cases converge.

This book is not as dark as the Erlendur novels. None of the investigators are as morose as Erlendur, which is an interesting change. Indridason has said that this is the initial book of at least a three book series with Flovent and Thorson as protagonists. It is a welcome addition from a master of mystery and I can’t wait for the second installment.

If PTSD in returning soldiers wasn’t such a serious issue, then The Right Side by Spencer Quinn would be a humorous book. But it is a serious issue and Quinn handles it with humor while getting his point across: PTSD can manifest itself in many ways, some of which mess with your mind, make you forget things you remembered seconds ago, disorient you.

If you were expecting another Chet and Bernie novel, you won’t find it in The Right Side, although a key character is a dog named Goody.  LeAnne Hogan was injured in Iraq, losing her right eye, her right side becoming her blind side. While in Walter Reed Hospital, she befriends her roommate, Marci, who dies suddenly of a blood clot. LeAnne decides on the spur of the moment that Walter Reed is doing her no good, nor is the hospital psychiatrist, Dr. Machado, so she up and leaves, with no particular plan.

Readers will follow LeAnne as she makes her way across the country in search, really, of herself. The ups and downs are dramatic, the almost loss of control at times real and scary. Quinn acknowledges two U.S. Army Veterans who reviewed and critiqued the book, so I’m assuming that Quinn’s portrayal of PTSD is accurate.

Quinn draws a good and realistic picture of LeAnne and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be drawn to her and Goody and want her to overcome her demons. In reality, I’m guessing, you don’t necessarily overcome them; you just get them somewhat under control.

If you’re interested in a young adult book on PTSD, then I’d suggest The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt.

I’ll go out on a limb and say The Right Side is one of the best books I’ve read this year, not necessarily because it’s overly literary, but because it addresses an ongoing issue with sensitivity and humor.

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

Kiewarra, Australia has been going through a two year drought when Aaron Falk returns for the funeral of his former best friend, Luke, his wife Karen and their young son Billy. Aaron and his father slunk away twenty years earlier when the town inhabitants accused them of being involved in the death of sixteen year old Ellie Deacon, Aaron’s friend. However, no one was ever arrested and convicted of murdering her.

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Times haven’t changed much in twenty years. The drought has made emotions fragile and the thought of Luke using his shotgun on himself and his family is understandable, if not condoned. However, the town’s new police detective Raco feels that things are amiss and with the help of Falk, a Federal Police Detective, starts questioning the events leading up to the triple murder/suicide.

Memories and grudges last a long time in Kiewarra and most people recognize and remember Aaron, not too fondly, and some will not even talk to him. News travels fast in this small town and soon everyone is aware of the ongoing investigation, even though they all believe the case is closed.

In The Dry, Harper makes the devastation and desolation caused by the drought palpable. She ably brings up the events of twenty years ago, juxtaposed with current events, the lives of sixteen year old kids juxtaposed against their current adult lives. She shows the meanness that existed all those years ago doesn’t go away over time.

I will say that I guessed ‘who dun it’ about two thirds of the way through the book, not because of any lapse in Harper’s story. It was half lucky guess, half logic. Several (two) people told me that they thought the book lagged a little in the middle but I didn’t find it so. It gripped me from the beginning. I liked the main protagonists and although I could see them as the initial installment in a series, I’m not sure how that would work, being the setting is in a small town…unless they both move to Melbourne (Falk already lives there).

The Dry is a good story and Jane Harper is now on my radar. I’ll be looking for future books by her.

 

Maeve is a worrier. Not your typical worrier. She suffers from severe anxiety disorders, so much so, that when her mother and her boyfriend go off to Haiti for six months on a goodwill mission, Maeve is forced to live with her father and his second wife, Claire, in Canada. Maeve is too anxiety prone to live alone in their mountain cabin. Meanwhile, Maeve thinks of all the things that could harm her mom while going to and staying in Haiti (airplane crashes, tornadoes, viruses) and all the ways Maeve could die on her way to Vancouver. She has statistics for everything.

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Claire is pregnant and wants to give birth at home as she did with her twins, so Maeve studies up on what can go wrong with home births. Meanwhile, her father, a former rock star and now scenery artist, has decided now is a good time for him to start drinking and drugging again, similar to what he did was Maeve and the twins were born.

The only good thing Maeve has going, if she doesn’t screw it up, is her girlfriend, Salix. Salix is understanding about Maeve’s anxiety. She’s beautiful and a talented violinist.

10 Things I Can See From Here (one of Salix’s coping mechanisms for Maeve) is more a story about anxiety disorders than it is a romance. Maeve is afraid to drive, to climb a monkey bar, fly. Yet, as you can guess, circumstances will force her to face her anxiety and at least partially conquer it.

Carrie Mac treats the relationship between Maeve and Salix as a romance, not a ‘lesbian’ romance. The same anxiety, confusion, uncertainty would surround any relationship, regardless of the gender of the lovers. And, by the way, they make a cute couple.

10 Things I Can See From Here is a fun read. Enjoy.

 

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss is a charming book about intergenerational relationships, very similar to Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming.

While Hattie is home alone she answers a phone call. The stranger on the other end, Peggy, tells Hattie that her elderly neighbor, Gloria, is unwell and it would be nice if Gloria’s only family, that is Hattie’s family, would visit her. The problem is that nobody in Hattie’s family has ever heard of Gloria.

When the rest of Hattie’s family begins a two week vacation, Hattie decides to drive to London (Hattie’s not an experienced driver) to visit Gloria, who turns out to be her great-aunt. What she finds is a crusty old lady, sitting in a window seat sipping Champagne. Gloria makes it clear she wants no part of Hattie, but Hattie is unshaken.

On her second visit, Hattie learns that Gloria is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suggests Gloria prepare a bucket list of places she’d like to visit while she can still remember them and the two women take a road trip, which Gloria reluctantly agrees to.

How Not to Disappear is a book about two women who have secrets: the first is a seventeen year old keeping a secret from her parents and the second is a seventy year old with a secret she’s never told anyone. It’s a rewarding intergenerational story about two people who come to terms with their lives and form a bond.

The parallels to Unbecoming are uncanny. In How Not to Disappear, Hattie meets an great aunt she never met. In Unbecoming, Katie meets a grandmother she’s never met. Both older women are suffering from dementia. The young women form a bond with their elderly relatives who in turn relate their life stories. Both older women led carefree theatrical lives. Both young women have an issue they must come to terms with. There is one more similarity which I’ll let the reader discover.

While the similarities are numerous, the books are vastly different and both should be read.

Private Detective Roxane Weary is the daughter of the late Police Officer Frank Weary. Weary was a hard driving, hard drinking detective and since his death nine months earlier, Roxane (with one ‘n’) has started following more in his footsteps, especially with the drinking.

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Her good (sober) brother, Matt, recommends her to Danielle Stockton, whose brother Brad was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Sarah’s parents and is on death row. The execution date is two months hence. Brad has, for fifteen years, denied any wrong doing and the only person who can corroborate that, Sarah, has been missing all these years. Good at finding things, Roxane is charged with finding Sarah, who Danielle swears she saw in town two weeks earlier.

Unfortunately, Roxane screws things up more than she recovers things, the alcoholic haze she lives under not helping her much. Her thought processes are mush at times and her theories go awry. Her credibility lessens, as does her popularity. But, of course, there is more than meets the eye, otherwise there would be no story.

The Last Place You Look, Lepionka’s debut novel, has the right amount of action, self pity, family discord. Despite, or because of, all her faults readers will immediately like Roxane. Her drinking is a problem. Her love life is a mess. Her life is a mess, actually. Positive comparisons to her father leave her ambivalent because in some ways she wants to be like him and in others she certainly doesn’t.

The story line is plausible and keeps readers reading. There was one part towards the end in which I was afraid for her. Now that takes a lot and says a lot.

All in all, The Last Place You Look is an admirable debut and I, for one, am looking for more adventures with Roxane Weary.

If you want a typical Sarah Dessen book (which I did) which takes place in the summer (a good beach read) and features a girl falling in love with a boy who seems unlovable, then Once and For All is just the ticket. Louna Barrett is jaded about love. Having experienced true love once, she doesn’t think it will ever come again. Add to this the fact that her mother, Natalie Barrett, is one of the best wedding planners in the business and Louna has worked through many a wedding (and heard about many a breakup), her cynical attitude is understandable.

Enter Ambrose, the son of one of the older brides, who was AWOL right before his mother’s wedding, who Natalie had to separate from a female catering worker and drag to the ceremony, and you have the setting for disaster. I won’t tell you the result, but you can guess.

As with all Sarah Dessen books, you get what you paid for, an easy reading, fun, love story. Once and For All does have a slightly dark side, but it fits the story nicely. Louna’s best friend, Jilly, adds some comic relief as she shepherds her three younger siblings around all summer while her parents work in a food truck.

All in all, Once and For All is the perfect antidote for the dismal goings on around us.