These engrossing, fun, smart novels make great beach and poolside reads, and their stories are deeper than typical romance fodder.
"The Way Back to You" by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott; Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; 384 pages; $17.99.
This witty novel will make readers cry and laugh. It's the heart-tugging tale of a girl and a guy who take a road trip around the southwestern United States. But the moving story is more than a road-trip tale.
When Ashlyn died in a bike accident, her best pal, Cloudy, and he boyfriend, Kyle, were devastated. Due to an unfortunate situation, Cloudy and Kyle are barely speaking to each other. But they then find out that three strangers are now alive because of Ashlyn's donated organs. The two decide to take the donor information and drive down the West Coast with a stowaway kitty to meet the three people who now have a renewed hope of living. It's just what Cloudy and Kyle need.
A combination tells of the sadness associated with intense grief and a journey back to joy, "The Way Back to You" is certainly an impactful new novel with plenty of humor, love and joy.
"Southern Gothic: A Celine Caldwell Mystery" by Bridgette R. Alexander; Paris 1865 Press; 310 pages; $16.99.
Author Bridgette R. Alexander is an art expert who has worked with some of the most prestigious galleries and museums in the world. She aims to educate and entertain teens so they become interested in and engaging with high-quality art. The heroine in Alexander's newest tale, a bi-racial girl with a group of loyal friends from different backgrounds, solves an art-related whodunit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Celine Caldwell is a dynamic crime-solving teen who aims to unravel a mystery involving blackmail, secrets, theft, the Ku-Klux-Klan and the cover-up of an century-old murder.
"Southern Gothic" is beautifully written with fascinating, enriching details about art history and the upper-class art world. For strong girls, Caldwell is certainly a new literary force to be reckoned with.
"A Walk in the Sun" by Michelle Zink; HarperTeen; 336 pages; $17.99.
This tale, set on a farm, is homey, warm and full of romance. Rose is trying to change her vision of her future. After her mother dies she gives up her own dreams and vows to keep her father's life together. Things look up when traveling farmhand Bodhi enters the picture.
Though neither Rose nor Bodhi has the time or desire for a romance it happens anyway, but not without many setbacks and the influence of baggage from their pasts and futures. Readers who love "The Bridges of Madison County" will enjoy "A Walk in the Sun."
"Sea Spell" by Jennifer Donnelly; A WaterFire Saga novel; Disney Hyperion; 357 pages; $17.99.
This is the fourth novel in the WaterFire Saga. Astrid leaves her mermaid friends to confront her ancestor, Orfeo, the evil force responsible for the rise of the monster Abbadon. In this exciting, epic ocean tale, six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world. There are Black Fins, goblin troops, death riders and gods all at play
The finale of this thrilling set of books is a reminder for readers to binge-read this breathtaking series. Beginning with the best-selling "Deep Blue," the other mermaid/mermen-civilization books include "Rogue Wave" and "Dark Tide." All star the six teen mermaids known as Serafina, Neela, Ling, Becca, Ava and Astrid.
"The Square Root of Summer" by Harriet Reuter Hapgood; Roaring Brook Press; 295 pages; $17.99.
Gottie H. Oppenheimer can't stop thinking about her secret trysts with a handsome boy, an almost kiss with a first love and the day her grandfather was rushed to the hospital and never came home. She's dying to rewrite her destiny, to figure out how the universe got so twisted and why everything points to a day she can't remember and wants to forget.
Gottie is gifted in math and science. She puts her smarts to work and begins a journey exploring the loves and losses from all her summers past. When time travel, quantum physics and romance come into play, the result is a gorgeously penned novel that's smart and romantic. Harriet Reuter Hapgood is a new author worth keeping in mind.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.