While it might be a bit late for a “last year recap” (it is already spring by the calendar, even if the snow last week belied that), I thought I might as well do one for those folks hoping to get some recommendations for good reading. I did find some “gems” out of the 94 titles I read last year, and without further ado, here are some of those! (for last year’s recommendations, see this blog)
[Disclaimer: the titles are MY first-time reads in 2017, not necessarily 2017 pubdates]
The broken universe both by Paul Melko
This two-part series (a duology) is about parallel universes, where each significant change results in a different reality. (If you’ve heard of the TV series Sliders, that multiverse idea is explored over the five year run of the series.) This was also a theme of a classic science fiction series started by H. Beam Piper in 1948 called the Paratime series.
Anyway, these two titles by Melko are great versions of this – they tell the story and adventures of John Rayburn, a very smart boy in his last year of high school in Ohio. When his double from an alternate world shows up and tricks him with a broken device to travel the multiverse, he becomes lost in the parallel versions of reality. But he is not to be underestimated – he eventually “reverse engineers” the device and sets out to find a parallel universe he can call his own.
The Midnight Line Lee Child
(also No Middle Name – a collection of short stories about Jack Reacher)
As followers of this blog might know, I’ve written before about Jack Reacher. 2017 was a treat as it featured not only the “annual” Jack Reacher novel (the Midnight Line) but also a collection of short stories (No Middle Name) featuring the Omnicompetent Loner who drifts into troubled situations and deals out justice.
The Midnight Line was a good addition to this mystery/thriller series – it featured a “contemporary” story (as opposed to the novels featuring the past of Reacher’s days as an elite Military Policeman) that takes Reacher out of his more usual urban or small town settings into an extremely remote Wyoming site to unravel the mystery of a ring found in a pawnshop.
As for the short story collection, it was also a welcome addition – lots of small backstory holes filled in about Reacher, and with the short story format it made for a very compelling read. If you’ve not read any Jack Reacher books before, “No Middle Name” is a good starting point to get the flavor of the series. And if you are a faithful reader, you should appreciate the latest full length title as well.
Soulwood Series Faith Hunter
This is a very good urban fantasy series featuring a unique heroine with strange, almost unexplored powers co-existing in a world where vampires, were-creatures, and other supernatural entities are publicly known and policed. The protagonist is also different not just because of her powers, but because she is an “escapee” from a religious cult of polygamists. The final interesting piece is that the series is set in the Appalachians (outside of Knoxville) where she is recruited into an elite paranormal unit that solves crimes and mysteries. The dialogue and scenes are excellently done and the stories are intriguing – there are currently three books in the series, and the first one is Blood of the Earth.
—————————————————————————————————————————————-Pax Arcana Series Elliott James
What if Prince Charming was actually a kick-butt monster hunter, and his descendants (the Charming family) carried on the family tradition as part of a secret group helping to keep the populace ignorant of the vampires, werewolves, and other monsters in the world? That’s the premise of the Pax Arcana series – featuring many different creatures from many different cultures (including a Valkyrie), which the majority of us cannot perceive due to a massive global spell (called the Pax Arcana) that keeps us ignorant. The name of the secret group, by the way, is the Knights Templar. (sort of like an alternate version of the Men In Black) This is a well-written series of five primary novels and 8 secondary works that works well in the urban fantasy genre. There is some good humor mixed in with the interesting characters and fairly consistent world-building. You can start with Charming.
Harper Connelly Series Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is best known for her Southern Vampire series (based in Louisiana) that was turned into the hit HBO series True Blood. But she has written several other series that have supernatural elements. I wrote about one series earlier in this blog, but the titles featuring Harper Connelly were new to me in 2017. They center around Harper’s ability to locate human remains, and when close enough to said remains, to determine the cause of death. This power came when she was struck by lightning as a young teenager, and while her ability makes people see her as a freak, she’s managed to make a living as a consultant, along with her manager/stepbrother. More of a mystery series than paranormal, it has a high amount of atmosphere – the weather, the small towns, the motels, life on the road – everything plays a part in setting the stage for an enjoyable, if creepy, mystery experience. The first book in the series is Grave Sight.
Sudden Appearance of Hope Claire North
You’ve met Hope Arden, the heroine of this title. You just can’t remember her. No one can – starting when she was a teenager, she’s been “cursed” with becoming irresistibly forgettable. Starting with her best friends, then her parents, and rapidly becoming everyone she comes in contact with. If you are not actually interacting with her, she’ll become completely forgotten in less than a couple of minutes.
This startling premise of her affliction (or is it her gift?) makes for an absorbing read – especially as she becomes an enemy of a new phone app that promises “Perfection” – an online guide that rules everything you eat, everything you wear, and all of your social interactions. Either premise would be a good plot, but throw them together and it’s unforgettable – just like Hope.
The Ship Beyond Time Heidi Heilig
I started with a duology, and I’m ending with a duology. The story centers on a father, a daughter, and their ability to take a ship anywhere they have a map – or anywhen. In other words, give them a map of the harbor of Barcelona in 1401, or even a detailed map to a fantasy world like Narnia, and they can sail their ship there. The father is on a quest to find a map to historical Honolulu in 1868, where the daughter (Nix) was born. The twist is that her mother died in childbirth – if her father succeeds in re-uniting with his lost love, what will happen to Nix? Their adventures while on this quest for the map are intriguing, and question the nature of time and even reality. The sequel is just as good.
If you’ve had some good reads in the last year, please feel free to share them – or let me know if you’ve read any of these!