Favorite Reads of ’18

One of my first reads of 2018, The Snow Child is a lovely retelling of a Russian fairy tale taking place in Alaska.

The Beautiful Mystery is Louise Penny’s eighth Inspector Gamache mystery. The whole book takes place at a secluded monastery in the wilderness of Quebec.

 

 

Rabbit Cake has a ten-year old protagonist whose mother drowned while sleepwalking. Sounds depressing, I know, but this is a delightful book. Favorite quote:

“That was what her rabbit cakes were about, celebrating every small good thing in your life. I know most families don’t celebrate every new moon or every solstice and equinox, but maybe they should. You never know when someone you love will shoot themselves in the middle of their own birthday party, or be found dead in another state, caught in a river dam, so everyone might as well have their cake right now.”

Beartown: About hockey, love, hope, tragedy, friendship, and loyalty in a small town where everyone knows everybody and everyone is affected by another’s hurt. “Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.

 

 

 

The Queen of Hearts: Two women who became best friends in medical school are now practicing medicine and raising their families in Charlotte, NC. A doctor from their past comes to Charlotte and secrets better left buried come to surface.

Magpie Murders: A mystery within a mystery by a writer who not only writes spy novels and mysteries but also television dramas such as “Foyle’s War” and “Midsomer Murders.”

Dissolution: First of the Matthew Shardlake historical mysteries. Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of monasteries. Informers abound and a murder soon takes place. Well-written historical fiction as well as a mystery. Looking forward to continuing this series.

Assassin’s Quest: Third in what was originally called The Farseer Trilogy. Has since grown to several more books but start with the first: Assassin’s Apprentice. Nobody builds fantasy worlds and develops characters better than Hobb.

Sorcerer to the Crown: First in a new fantasy series. Takes place in Victorian England. Zacharias Wythe, a freed slave and the new Sorcerer Royal, must find out why England’s magic is drying up. Bonus: there’s a dragon. Second book coming out in March.

A good year for reading! Looking forward to many more in 2019. How about you? What were your favorites in ’18? Which books are you excited about in 2019?

Happy New Year!

 

The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

scribe's daughterThe Scribe’s Daughter is listed as a fantasy, but not the type of fairies and dragons. It reads like historical fiction, but the lands and their people are the creation of the author.

This book tells the story of 17-year old Kassia, whose mother has died and whose father has been missing for some 3 years. Kassia and her older sister are doing what they can to survive and to keep the terrifying landlord from the door, so when a stranger appears and asks Kassia to take on some metalwork, she agrees though she knows this is beyond her qualifications.

Taking on this job leads to danger and Kassia finds herself involved in political intrigue and ends up fleeing for her life. She meets new friends who help her to safety and to discovering why she is of interest to anyone.

It took me a bit to get into the story, but I enjoyed getting to know the characters and learning of their various backgrounds. The book ends with a satisfactory conclusion yet gives hints of more to come; most specifically, learning what became of Kassia’s sister. I’m hoping that there is a sequel in the works.
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John Claude Bemis

nine pound hammerJohn Claude Bemis is a writer from North Carolina who writes for children and middle grade readers. Growing up, Bemis enjoyed reading fantasy and stories that contained American folklore. As an adult, he taught third grade and noticed most of the fantasy books available for children (and even adults) were based on myths and legends from Europe, but couldn’t find any that contained American legends. So, he wrote his first book, The Nine Pound Hammer, taking several legends from American history, including that of John Henry. The book is a mix of fantasy and steampunk and is the first in a trilogy.

I was recently able to hear Bemis speak a couple of months ago at a meeting for the Charlotte Writers’ Club. He read a bit from The Nine Pound Hammer. (I wanted to put my hands over my ears and scream, ‘spoiler alert’ as I had just checked the book of the library to read, but I refrained). He also introduced his newest book, Out of Abaton, The Wooden Prince. In this book, Bemis takes a well-known fairy tale, Pinocchio, and creates a new world, a fantastical Venice. (Pinocchio is known to many of us through a Disney movie, though the character is originally from an Italian book written in the 1800’s). In this tale, an automa named Pinocchio finds himself locked in a trunk and sent to a wanted criminal and alchemist by the name of Geppetto. Soon, Pinocchio begins having feelings and thoughts of his own; not the behavior of an automa. Before he and Geppetto can unravel what is happening to him, Pinocchio is kidnapped. He faces many dangers, meets new friends, and has several adventures before he can find Geppetto again.

The Wooden Prince

If you’re looking for some fun, adventurous stories for children and want to learn more about Bemis–his books and the workshops he offers–visit his website at: http://www.johnclaudebemis.com/

INSPY Shortlist 2016

The INSPY Shortlist for 2016 has been announced, and though some of these books are already on my TBR list, I can see I will need to add several more.

The INSPY awards were created by bloggers for the best literature “that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith”. The categories include: historical romance, debut fiction, speculative fiction, and literature for young adults.

20160505_105741I already have two books in the historical romance category that I am looking forward to reading. One by Jody Hedlund is Luther and Katharina, a story of a monk and a nun who fall in love in the 16th century. You’ve probably heard of the monk, Martin Luther. I’ve read a couple of Jody Hedlund’s books in her Beacons of Hope series and know that she is a skilled and entertaining writer.

The other I’m looking forward to reading is Lori Benton’s The Wood’s Edge.  I read her book, Burning Sky, last year and can highly recommend it. Several people in a group I belong to in Goodreads have already read The Wood’s Edge and can only rave about it.

20160505_105808

One more author I’ll recommend writes speculative fiction, (what I would call fantasy) Patrick Carr. I read A Cast of Stones and am ready to read the second in that series. His book that has been nominated for an INSPY is Shock of Night, the start of a new series.

To see the full list of nominations, go to: http://inspys.com/?page_id=2645 and have fun reading!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Imagine a circus that just appears  in your town one day, is only open at night, and everything is in black and white. Imagine a circus that has so many tents that you will want to come every night to try and see them all. Imagine a circus that smells of caramel and cinnamon, has a bonfire that never goes out, an ice garden, and characters with names like Poppet, Widget, Celia, and Marco. Imagine the circus is gone one morning and you don’t know if it will ever be back.

I’ve never really been one for circuses, but this one is different. Why it is so different makes the story the compelling fantasy that it is. Who is really running the circus? Is it all illusion and mirrors or is there real magic involved? Is it all good or is there some kind of hidden evil involved?

Two children are trained and prepared for a trial or test. What kind of trial? How does one win? What does that have to do with the circus?

I loved this book. It has magic, love, and complicated characters. One that I wanted to finish to see how it would end, yet hated for it to be over. This is Erin Morgenstern’s first book and I hope she is working on another!

A Wrinkle in Time–50th Anniversary

A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th year in print this year. A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 and won the Newberry Medal in 1963.

A Wrinkle in Time was my first introduction to science fiction. I was probably in the 3rd grade when our class listened to WiT being read. It made such an impression on me that when I ran across it in high school, I had to read it again; then I gave it to my sister to read. I’m sure I didn’t understand too much about the math & science involved, but the characters of Meg Murray and her brother, Charles Wallace, are characters that have stayed with me. Reading it again made me realize that the book is full of interesting characters & reminded me of what I loved about the book. From the grand entrance of Mrs. Whatsit to Mrs. Murray–a mother who knows how to encourage & love her children–the characters all have personalities anyone can relate to and just appreciate.

A Wrinkle in Time begins with the famous, or infamous, first line: “It was a dark & stormy night.” Really. This line is originally from the novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, first published in 1830. It has been considered the worst first line in literature & is frequently parodied, most famously by Snoopy of the comic strip, “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz. There is even a contest to write a bad opening paragraph for the worst novels ever written, held every year by the English Department of San Jose State University. The contest is called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Meg is a frustrated young girl who feels out of place at school believing she isn’t as smart and ‘normal’ as others. Her brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious 5-yr old; though others find him odd, believing he doesn’t even know how to talk. Their worst problem, however, is that their scientist father has been missing for quite some time, and the rest of the town believes he has abandoned his family.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend, Calvin meet three very different ladies: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. These ladies take the children on a journey to find Mr. Murray. This journey will take them to another world where they will have to fight an evil by learning more about themselves and their strengths.

Anna Quindlen writes an appreciation of the book for this latest issue. “On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves. When Meg pulls the ultimate weapon from her emotional arsenal to fight, for her little brother & for good, it is a great moment, not just for her, but for every reader who has ever felt overlooked, confused, alone.”

From Progeny Press: “Although A Wrinkle in Time can be classified as science fiction, it also contains elements of fantasy, philosophy, Biblical truth, and a glimpse of the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil waged in a distant galaxy.”

L’Engle often incorporated her faith in her books. In her book, Walking on Water, she said, “I often seek theological insights in reading science fiction, because this is a genre eminently suited to exploration of the nature of the Creator and the creation . . . to think about worlds in another galaxy is a theological enterprise.”