Stay – Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Lucas Painter is a teenager in the Vietnam era and his older brother Roy is off fighting in the war. His letters come back with many redactions, leaving Lucas very unsettled. His parents are continually fighting, and the loud arguments send Lucas out for solace. His best friend Connor struggles with the quiet in his home, along with the sheer emotional distance that has grown between his parents, spending much of each day alone in his room, resisting most invitations to leave the house.

So, to entertain himself, Lucas explores the undeveloped forest behind his neighborhood, following small trails that deer and other creatures have made to the nearby river. Then on one such day, Lucas stumbles across a cabin deep in the forest, complete with pick up truck parked nearby – and a doghouse. He then finds himself face to face with two large dogs, and he takes off running, with both dogs crashing behind him in pursuit. It’s not until he trips and falls that he realizes the dogs were enjoying the run, not chasing him down – and Lucas discovers a joy for running. It quickly becomes a daily routine. Until one morning he finds the dogs pacing and scratching at the door – and quickly discovers a woman lying in bed who doesn’t respond to his yells and banging…

Shortly thereafter, Lucas meets the woman he saved, Zoe Dinsmore, and learns of the tragedy that surrounds her, discovering that she perhaps didn’t want to be saved. An unlikely companionship ensues, one that they both seemingly need. Meanwhile, a gun has gone missing from Connors household, and no one knows where it’s gone. When Lucas inadvertently discovers the gun, hidden in a vent underneath Connor’s bed, he makes a split-second decision for better or worse, to introduce Connor to Zoe.

Meanwhile, Roy is sent home from Vietnam with a war injury, and an addiction to medications. A brooding version of his former self, he eventually allows Lucas to maneuver him into attending NA meetings, where eventually he shares his story and Lucas learns first-hand of the horrors his brother has been through. And another participant re-joins the group after a long absence, much to Lucas’s surprise.

A heartwarming, triumphant story of friendship, perseverance, wisdom & love. The ending was a bit bittersweet for me, but that just made it STAY with me all the longer. Definitely a must read….

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.

Blind Search – Paula Munier

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It’s opening day of hunting season in Vermont. Henry Jenkins, an autistic boy with a fondness for prime numbers and fantasy games, has escaped the housekeeper and her runny eggs, and has run off into the forest in his Batman pajamas, following trails and such in a pattern only he can understand. While covertly following a member of his father’s hunting party, whom he calls a ‘monster slayer’, he trips and falls – and then witnesses something so terrifying that he runs deep into the woods…

Mercy Carr and bomb-sniffing dog Elvis are both retired from the military and attempting to recover from a shared trauma, the loss of Martinez, her fiancé and Elvis’ handler. Mercy, a former MP, is working on her archery skills with her family. Elvis heads out to retrieve a wayward arrow but doesn’t return, prompting Mercy to go looking for him. As she finds him in the forest, he alerts to a female body lying nearby with an arrow sticking out of her chest.

Troy Warner is the local game warden, and he and his K-9, Susie Bear are out chasing poachers when he receives the report of Mercy’s find. Arriving on the scene, they interview members of the hunting party while they await the local law enforcement to arrive. Unfortunately, Detective Kai Harrington has little use for Mercy or Troy, and orders them off of the scene.

Mercy & Tory continue to work the case from the sidelines in a race against time, as they and their dogs try to safeguard Henry, and extract information from the child who doesn’t understand how to communicate what he saw. Then Henry disappears again, with Elvis in tow, and another search is launched, with another body found in the woods…and a kidnapping attempt of Henry is narrowly averted. With a blizzard bearing down on the area, Mercy & Troy look for shelter as they question – were the murders committed by simple poachers? Or is something much more sinister at hand?

Being New England born and bred, I absolutely LOVED this book!! The geography, and the storyline are rich in detail, and the characters are complex, and relatable, as each deal with personal stressors as well. Henry’s character is particularly well written, and gives much insight into autism, from both his perceptions of the world, and how he is perceived. A wonderful read, with fantastic characters, both 2 and 4 legged, and will resonate with you long after the final page is turned. And – it’s a series!!

Just like that, I have a new favorite author!!

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.