Last year, I found a number of new books that I wanted to share with you. I had meant to end the year with a post about those books. Holidays and the rest of life happened instead, though, so enjoy!
Four in a row…with more to come.
“I just called you Sir Horace of the Order of the Oak Leaf… At least, that’s what I think I told him. I may have said you were of the Order of the Oak Pancake.”
Last year, one of my students told me about John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, and when I got back from Alaska this fall, I found my family reading them. Flanagan stays pretty close to basic questing fantasy, with Will in the first book as the orphan of unknown parents, coming of age and claimed for training by old pro Halt, the Ranger, a mysterious man, able to come and go as if by magic, and definitely a very important person to the kingdom’s safety.
There is some world-building, but for Flanagan that seems to mean that across the Narrow Sea from Araluen, the Gallicans speak, well, pretty modern French and act like fairly typical French chevaliers. Overall, the books have nothing too serious to keep track of, and quite a lot of personality clashes to keep things lively. Perhaps I was just in a mood to laugh last week, but may I say that the four books I’ve read so far were a riot?
Three…wait? I’m reading Romance now?
It’s almost like a contagious disease…in February at a writer’s conference, I picked up Where Wildflowers Bloom, by Ann Shorey, one of the speakers. It was well written, with an interesting mix of Civil War veterans, the Oregon trail, and frontier shop keeping. Shorey even introduces the idea of PTSD without using the name, but still—love triangles tend to annoy me.
About May, I followed with Patricia Rushford’s Deadly Aim. Drug rings, gang wars and a police shooting in Sunset Cove, Oregon? And police officer—second-generation police officer—Angel Delaney ends up responsible for shooting a young boy. Rushford writes a good story, not too fast-paced, but with good action and thought involved, with plenty of surprises as well. And yes, it’s a police procedural, but it does have a good romance story—along with a very good look at the individual and community reactions to a police officer’s use of deadly force.
And what about airplanes? I picked up Bonnie Leon’s Touching the Clouds with just a vague idea that it was an Alaskan flying story. It is—Kate Evans runs away from memories of a bad crash back home in Washington and tries bush flying in Alaska instead. The story is pretty scattered—after one of the characters has a brush with wolves early on, wolves never show up again, and most of the plot is similarly loose except for Kate’s love triangle. At the same time, I found it definitely interesting to read Leon’s description of bush flying after spending the summer just across the Cook Inlet from the area Kate flies. I don’t think this book really gets the idea of Alaska across, but it is a good read.
Two…more fantasy. There’s a theme starting.
For some reason, I’ve also ended up reading a fair amount of YA fantasy/speculative fiction this year. I’ve enjoyed most of it. Some of it I won’t recommend, though sadly that includes some attempts at Christianized fiction that fall short even of lame.
At the other end of the spectrum was Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve mentioned finding Riordan’s books earlier this spring, with some reservations about the junior-high attitudes in his Percy Jackson series. After reading The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune, I’m enjoying this series better. The characters seem to have grown up somewhat, and in my opinion, the mythology plays a smaller role in these books, but I enjoyed the quests more.
One…also a fantasy, to end the list.
What book convinced me that I enjoyed Suzanne Collins’s writing? Not The Hunger Games. Rather, Gregor the Overlander.
Gregor, the 11-year-old boy who follows his baby sister through a grate in New York, down into the Underland. It’s a children’s story, as much about protecting family and getting back home as it is about giant rats in the dark. But don’t ignore the giant rats either! (Or cockroaches, or spiders, or bats.)
I posted a short review of it here, if you are interested, but I’m going to be reading the rest of the series one of these days, and Collins might be one of my favorite authors now. All because of Gregor, the Warrior.