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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!

 

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.

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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.

 

When the wealthy Mrs. Atterby walks into Bertha Cool’s detective agency with her daughter, Mrs. Cunner, to discuss Mrs. Cunner’s wayward husband, Bertha is all ears. Although most detective agencies don’t handle domestic cases, Cool is not above airing someone else’s dirty linen and she’s got just the agent for the case, Donald Lam. Of course, as Lam investigates, he discovers Mr. Cunner is involved in more than just stepping out on his wife…and Lam has the bruises to prove it.

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The Knife Slipped, a long lost manuscript (there seem to be a lot of them cropping up nowadays) in Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam series, apparently was supposed to be the second book in the series. I forgot that I had read another book in the series and wasn’t overly impressed.

Bertha Cool is a smart talking, obese broad who pretty much has no scruples. Unfortunately, she is way over the top, so if you’re into the believable, you’d be hard pressed to believe any of this.

Donald Lam appears to fall hard and fast for anything in a skirt. He doesn’t have much brain power, but for a skinny guy seems to take his beatings in stride.

*****SPOILER*****

The plot is totally outdated, as it deals with cheating on police and fireman civil service exams, which is not something I’ve heard much about recently.

Gardner was a prolific pulp mystery writer, but he wasn’t one of the best. He created unique characters for the times, but I can’t say that I really like Bertha Cool or Donald Lam. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read more of the series.

What Light by Jay Asher

The best way to describe What Light by Jay Asher is that it is suitable for one of those Hallmark or Lifetime Channel cheesy Christmas romance movies. So, the less said about it the better.

Synopsis: Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. From Thanksgiving through Christmas they relocate to California to sell the trees. The farm and lot have been in the family for generations.

As a result of this lifestyle, Sierra has two sets of friends, one set in each state and gets emotional every time she has to leave one for the other. She’s also avoided entanglements in California, knowing she’s a short timer.

This year is the exception. She meets Caleb, a boy with a shady past. Her overly protective father, now has cause to be even more protective.

What Light is ready made for TV, cheesy plot, semi-tearjerker ending, set at holiday time. Quite the change from Asher’s overly serious, suicidal Thirteen Reasons Why. I had nothing else to read so I kept going, but luckily I’m not diabetic because the sugary sweetness of the book would have put me in a coma.

If you go for this sort of book (guilty pleasure or not), go for it. Otherwise read Sarah Dessen or Emory Lord or Morgan Matson.

The end.

Although The Warden’s Daughter is about a child growing up inside prison walls, the resemblance to Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts ends there. The latter is a humorous book, with some serious overtones while the former is a sensitive look at a girl looking for a mother, with some humor included.

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Cammie’s mother sacrificed her own life to save Cammie, when she was just an infant, from being hit by a milk truck. Her mother pushed the carriage Cammie was in across the street, while taking the full impact of the vehicle. Cammie incurred only minor bruises.

Since then she and her father have had a series of ‘trustees’, responsible convicts, tend their house, cook their meals, dust and clean. At age 12, however, Cammie decides she needs a real mother and Eloda Pupko, the current trustee, is a good choice. Yet no matter how much she cajoles, schemes, manipulates, Eloda keeps her distance, remains aloof.

The story is told by Cammie when she is in her mid-60s (although it is not always apparent). It story evokes 1959, on the cusp of Cammie’s thirteenth birthday. American Bandstand and the songs of the late 50s play a big role and will bring back memories to those adults choosing to read The Warden’s Daughter.

But Eloda and Cammie, a confused twelve year old with flowing hormones which make her irrational at times, are the main characters. Eloda is the gruff but caring housekeeper and Cammie is the unhappy almost teen who gets excited one minute about her best friend, Reggie, getting on American Bandstand and the next is kicking all of her friends out of her birthday sleepover because one of them starts crying because she forgot to bring a toothbrush and her mother won’t let her use any but her own.

Jerry Spinelli, known for Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, always comes up with a good story. The Warden’s Daughter is sensitive and fun and shows there is a good side to everyone.

 

Only Louise Penny (or Armand Gamache) could correlate the death of a Surete Academy professor in Montreal with a map drawn during the first world war that was found in the walls of Gavri and Olivier’s bistro in Three Pines. And it works, to some extent.

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While performing renovations on their bistro, Gavri and Olivier uncover, in the walls, a map of Three Pines. It’s not just any map. It’s got a snowman on it. It’s got pyramids that don’t exist. It is extremely detailed and it is determined that it is an Orienteering map, one of the first. (If you don’t what orienteering is, which I did not, read the book or look it up.)

After nearly dying while exposing vast corruption in the Surete, Chief Inspector Gamache has to decide what to do next. Recuperating in Three Pines, though an idyllic location, is not enough to keep Gamache satisfied. He has had several offers but ultimately decides to run the Surete Academy du Quebec. Cadets have been ruthlessly trained to use brawn before brain, producing an overly aggressive, less compassionate, potentially corrupt police force. His goal is to root out corruption and brutality but he surprises everyone by keeping Professor Serge Leduc, a sadistic, manipulative professor and a main cause of these brutal graduates.

When Leduc is found shot to death in his academy rooms and a copy of Three Pines map is found in his night table, shadows are cast on four cadets, as well as Gamache himself. It is up to his protege, Isabelle Lacoste, and his son in law to solve the murder and exonerate his name.

As with all Louise Penny/Armand Gamache books, the remarkable cast of Ruth and her duck, Rosa, Myrna, Clara, Gavri and Olivier, and Gamache’s wife, Reine-Marie, take major roles.  It is their eccentricities that make the book. Gamache comes off as too goody-goody, too ethically superior to everyone else, almost God-like…a bit too much. But the action and the characters propel this novel forward. Also, as with all Armand Gamache books, it is a good read. It is a welcome addition to a fun series.

What happens when two people are attracted to each other, but only one knows a secret that can strain that attraction? Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake delves into this subject and comes to a realistic, not a sugary sweet, conclusion.

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Sam and Hadley come from broken homes. Each had a parent who had had an affair, the result of which dramatically altered their families and their lives. Each ultimately moved from their home town of Nashville to a suburb, Woodmont. Each blames the offending parent for ruining their lives. Hadley finds comfort in hooking up with random guys, showing no interest in developing any kind of relationship. Sam just blows up.

The two are paired for an English assignment. Hadley, having learned that a boy she hooked up with at a party had a girl friend (she does have some scruples) trusts no boys. Sam has heard a bit about Hadley’s reputation and is dubious. But there is an attraction, only Sam knows something that could doom any budding relationship.

Sam, his younger sister, Olivia, and his best friend Ajay, as well as Hadley and her best friend, Kat, make a good ensemble cast. Their reactions to the philandering adults is understandable, however, the adults’ reactions to their children is hard to understand. Everyone is emotional. Everyone is upset. But still…

I give the author credit for not necessarily taking the easy way out, but coming up with a realistic ending. My only criticism with the book: it was 50 pages too long. By the end, I was skimming.