Rollicking Reads from 2016

It is the time of year for retrospectives.  And rather than recap celebrity deaths (Prince, Bowie, Mariah Carey’s career), I thought I’d pick a handful of materials I’ve checked out from the library that gave me hours of enjoyment this past year of 2016. They were not all published in 2016, but 2016 was the year I read them for the first time.

Overall, I’ve read 80 eBooks this past year, and about 20 additional books in print.  From those 100  I’ll select 10 things to recommend, all available from Fontana Regional Library or the NC Cardinal state system that FRL belongs to.

One explanation about my selections: I like science fiction and fantasy genres, but also like thriller and adventure novels, good comedies, and even some mysteries; when reading non-fiction I like histories, biographies, and memoirs.  So you will see “all of the above” in the ten titles/series I’ve chosen.  I’ll start with a memoir…about a movie, made about a book, that was written about a fictional book.

1.As you wish: inconceivable tales from the making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (2014)

A memoir by the actor who played Westley in the now-classic movie The Princess Bride.  Hilarious and heart-warming, behind the scenes stories of how the movie came together, from the screenwriter (who also wrote the original book) to Billy Crystal to Andre the giant.

2.The Brilliance series by Marcus Sakey

3 titles: Brilliance (2013),  A Better World (2014), Written in Fire (2016)

An edge of tomorrow science-fiction thriller-adventure, about the social problems that occur when a percentage of the world’s children start manifesting savant-style gifts (like lightning calculation, but also mind-reading, pattern recognition, fantastic reflexes, etc.). It’s the story (somewhat similar to the story line of Blade Runner), about a special agent who hunts down the “Brilliants” who have broken the law.  And he and his youngest daughter are also Brilliants…

3.The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

3 titles: The Invisible Library (2016), The Masked City (2016), The Burning Page (2017)

This fantasy series contains the tales of an alternate reality wherein many alternate realities can be traveled to, and the Invisible Library where the librarians attempt to collect all the versions of various books by travelling to the multi-verses involved.  Each alternate has a varying degree of Law vs. Chaos – Law based realities are like ours, with science and technology, whereas Chaos realities have fairies, dragons, magic, etc.  The realities are on a spectrum, so many of them have a mix. One of the first places the first book goes is a steampunk world with a Sherlock Holmes surrogate vs. vampires.

4.Chronicles of St. Mary’s series by Jodi Taylor

8 novels, plus novellas: https://www.goodreads.com/series/109102-the-chronicles-of-st-mary-s

In this fast-paced science-fiction series, St. Mary’s is an historical institute where historians study history via time travel.  A secret to all but their sponsoring Thirsk University, these tales tell of a the madcap adventures of the historian Madeline Maxwell, as she bounces with her colleagues from the fall of Troy to the Gates of Thermopylae to encounters with Isaac Newton and dodo birds.

5.Night School by Lee Child (2016)

Like all the Jack Reacher books written by Child, this one can be read as a standalone work, and not in any particular order.  Some of the Reacher books are “contemporary” and others are set back in Reacher’s past, while he was still in the Army.  This is a “past” title detailing how Reacher and a select team of both FBI and CIA agents undertake a secret mission to stop terrorists before they strike.  The appeal of the Reacher novels lies in the Jack Reacher character himself, as his unique brain and his indomitable physical gifts combine to thwart evil wherever he encounters it. In total, there are 21 books as of Night School.

6.Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo

2 titles: Six of Crows (2015), Crooked Kingdom (2016)

This fantasy duology is set in a steampunk world with some magic, and is sort of a fantasy version of Ocean’s Eleven. A group of six misfit but highly competent mercenary/criminals set out to infiltrate an un-breachable fortress and liberate the prisoner held there. There are lots of plot twists, with the leader Kaz usually (but not always) one step ahead of his opponents.

7.Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

8 published novels and one novella : https://www.goodreads.com/series/46160-flavia-de-luce

A mystery series set shortly after WW2, whose heroine Flavia is only 11 (in the first book), but possessed of a mind like Sherlock Holmes, a rather morbid interest in chemistry (specializing in poisons), and the youngest of a very interesting English noble family.  Most of the books are set in the environs of the decaying mansion and grounds of the de Luce estate, but one of the books sees Flavia off to Canada.  The series has ongoing themes, and is not really designed for standalone reading, but it can be done that way without undue difficulty.

8.The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson

3 novels and one novella: https://www.goodreads.com/series/93010-reckoners

An Earth where there are no super-heroes, only super-villains (the Epics), opposed by an extraordinary band of non-superpowered human rebels known as the Reckoners. Their goal – somehow defeating the Epics and restoring their world. Their only hope is to exploit the secret weakness of each super-villain.

9.Ex-heroes series by Peter Clines

5 titles: https://www.goodreads.com/series/67447-ex-heroes

{from the author’s website} In the days after civilization fell to the zombie hordes, a small team of heroes—including St. George, Zzzap, Cerberus, and Stealth—does everything they can to protect human survivors. Each day is a desperate battle against overwhelming odds as the heroes fight to keep the undead at bay, provide enough food and supplies for the living, and lay down their lives for those they’ve sworn to protect. But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the shadows of the ruin that lies everywhere…and they may be the most terrifying threat of all.

10.The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

[from the publishers webpage] “The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.”

*****

As you can see, I discovered some wonderful series last year, as well as individual books, that kept me up too late, made me laugh out loud, and grabbed my imagination.  I hope you find something here that you will likewise enjoy!

[disclaimer: with series I am just linking to the first title in the series for you to get started, but I either list the existing books in the series or provide a link so they can be read in order]

My Seminal Works

By Loretta

In one of my previous posts, I wrote of my efforts to weed the books I thought I would never read again, so they wouldn’t cave in on me.  This time, I thought I would share the ones that I return to time and again.

There was never a time I didn’t love books, but my real infatuation began with Little Women.  I was about 12 years old at the time and impressionable and Alcott made me feel a part of her family.  In large part, that was due to her talent as a writer, but may have also had something to do with me having three sisters of my own.  When Beth died, a little of me went with her.

Close on the heels of Alcott, I found Ivanhoe by Walter Scott.  Eureka – this was it!  I had found my niche: historical fiction.  Romance, adventure, love, loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak: what more could anyone ask from a book?  I left another part of myself in the Middle Ages.

I was so entranced by these two, I became ambitious.  I remember going to our school library and wandering up and down the shelves, looking for “old” books.  What I found changed me.  It was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  It was a huge book with a worn cover and looked like it would be just the thing to keep me busy for a while. As it turned out, I devoured it in a short time, because it was such a beautiful story.  It was then I realized books could allow you to live anytime, anywhere, become acquainted with the people, their ideas and customs.  I became the perennial armchair traveler.  I have never looked back.

Books invade so quietly and conquer so completely,  like our very own personal Trojan horses. Before you know it, they have taken over your life and you have them in stacks on any level surface that is strong enough to support them.

Besides the three already mentioned, the following list includes some of the fiction keepers in my world.  (My nonfiction list would be so long, it would take on its own identity and I would have to send it to school.)  There are about 50 of them, more or less, some juvenile lit, some young adult, some adult.   If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to try one or two of them sometime and let them work their magic on you.

Adams, Richard.  Watership Down.
Aesop.  Aesop’s Fables.
Auel, Jean.  The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Babbitt, Natalie.  Tuck Everlasting.
Bowles, Paul.  The Sheltering Sky.
Briggs, Katherine.  Hobberdy Dick.
Bronte, Charlotte.  Jane Eyre.
Buck, Pearl.  The Good Earth.
Bunting, Eve.  I Am the Mummy Heb-Nefert.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson.  The Secret Garden.
Camus, Albert.  The Stranger.
Capote, Truman.  A Christmas Memory.
Dean, Pamela.  Tam Lin.
Dickens, Charles.  A Tale of Two Cities.
Doyle, Roddy.  The Snapper.
Fielding, Helen.  Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Follett, Ken.  The Eye of the Needle.
Follett, Ken.  The Pillars of the Earth.
Frazier, Charles.  Cold Mountain.
Gabaldon, Diana.  Outlander.
Gallico, Paul.  Snowflake.
Grahame, Kenneth.  The Wind in the Willows.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Heinlein, Robert.  Stranger in a Strange Land.
Hesse, Hermann.  Siddhartha.
Hinton, Nigel.  The Heart of the Valley.
Hudson, W.H.  Green Mansions.
Huxley, Aldous.  Brave New World.
Keene, Carolyn.  The Nancy Drew mysteries.
Le Carre, John.  The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
Levin, Ira.  The Boys from Brazil.
McCullers, Carson.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
McKillip, Patricia.  The Book of Atrix Wolfe.
Milne, A.A.  Winnie the Pooh.
O’Dell, Scott.  Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Paton Walsh, Jill.  Knowledge of Angels.
Pelletier, Cathie.  The Funeral Makers.
Pilcher, Rosamunde.  The Shell Seekers.
Pyle, Howard.  The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
Robbins, Tom.   Still Life With Woodpecker.
Robinson, Barbara. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Saint Exupery, Antoine de.  The Little Prince.
Seton, Anya.  Green Darkness.
Sheldon, Sidney.  The Other Side of Midnight.
Smith, Dodie.  I Capture the Castle.
Stewart, Mary. The Crystal Cave.
Stewart, Mary.  This Rough Magic.
Thompson, Kay.  Eloise.
Thurber, James.  Many Moons.
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Hobbit.
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Fellowship of the Rings.
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Two Towers.
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Return of the King.
Toole, John Kennedy.  A Confederacy of Dunces.
Trevanian.  The Eiger Sanction.
Trumbo, Dalton.  Johnny Got His Gun.
Wells, H. G.  The Time Machine.
Wells, H.G.  War of the Worlds.
Wilder, Thornton.  The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
Willis, Connie.  The Doomsday Book.