Friday, July 30, 2010

Justin's summer reads

Almost the end of summer and I finally have a few days between summer camps and the new school year to catch up on my reading! Despite just two months of summer, I've delved into some good books.

Obviously, having just finished a week of The Name of This Camp is Secret, or, affectionately, Secret Camp, I've also just finished rereading the books of the Secret Series: The Name of This Book is Secret, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late, and This Book Is Not Good For You. This is a fun series full of mystery, magic tricks, circus folk, secret societies and, well, I can't tell you any more, because it's secret!

I'm a big fan of mysteries, and I haven't read any solidly pulpy paperback mysteries in awhile. I recently came across a copy of Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie, published by Hard Case Crime. This publisher is awesome--for half a dozen years they've been bringing back some classics of hard-boiled pulp mysteries, as well as publish new mysteries of a similar vein. If you dig the kind of two-fisted pot-boiler mysteries written by the likes of Max Allen Collins, Lawrence Block, and Earl Stanley Gardner, then you'd enjoy just about any of the titles in this distinctive line of books.

Another series of mysteries I read this summer are by my new favorite author, Mac Barnett. Barnett has written a trifecta of awesomeness with his recent onslaught of picture books (Guess Again!, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, and Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World), but his new chapter book series is a whole new kind of fantastic. The first book in the series establishes Steve Brixton as the newest boy super-sleuth in kidslit fiction, taking his place alongside such stalwarts as Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys. But what makes Brixton stand out is the absurdity and humor--Brixton is a big fan of a classic boy detective series (a thinly veiled Hardy Boys), and goes about his detective work using those books as a blueprint for how to solve mysteries. There's a simultaneous satire of those old series and a genuine, earnest mystery. The characters are great and the writing is super fun. The first book, The Case of the Case of of Mistaken Identity, is out now. The second book, The Ghostwriter Secret, will be out in October!

Paul Auster may be best known for existential mysteries like his New York Trilogy, but his newest novel, Sunset Park, due out in November, isn't so much mystery as contemporary American fiction. Nuanced, rich with characters and great writing, Sunset Park is Paul Auster in full form. Circumstance and coincidence bring together various characters, each on the brink of falling apart, each desperate to connect to the people around them. Check this book out when it arrives in November.

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