20-ish Top Reads of 2018

“Clear the decks!” crows Mom. “It’s Best Books time!”

She may be a bit confused. Ever since my puppy days it’s been “deck the halls” this time of year. Well. You know how moms are. Especially when someone asks, “Which kid is your favorite?”

Okay, okay. So no one put it quite like that. But plenty have asked which books are her favorite. “It’s almost the same thing,” sniffs Mom.

Hah, bumhug! says I.

Arf you may know, Mom met her 2018 reading challenge last week: 365 books in one year. People keep asking which “kids” are her favorite from that long, long list. (For background, see: When They Tell You It’s “Impossible.” Also see: How I Read 100+ books in 90 days.)

I’m kinda curious myself. I gave her the puppy eyes look.

Works every time.

So ‘clear the decks’ for Mom’s Top Reads of 2018.

Warning: “That ‘top 20’ thing’s just not gonna happen,” says Mom.

Indeed, competition for a spot on Mom’s ‘totally subjective, 100% unscientific’ list was fierce. So bow-wow-ish, in fact, that Mom divided the list into four basic categories:

  1. Best Fiction
  2. Best Non-Fiction
  3. Best Series
  4. Favorite Authors.

Also Honorable Mentions.

Each book earned its respective spot based on quality of writing, creativity and poignancy, superior characterizations, outstanding, unique plots and overall excellence. And Just Plain Fun. (Note: No book that brainlessly, repeatedly deploys gratuitous profanity ever makes Mom’s “best” list. She calls that “sloppy-writing-lazy.” Hah, bumhug again.)

365 books in one year. And then some! November 27, 2018.

Anyway, Mom’s Top Books Read in 2018 are,in no particular order:

Best Fiction

  1. Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
  2. Time for Andrew – Mary Downing Hahn
  3. A Dog Called Homeless – Sarah Lean
  4. Run Far, Run Fast – Walt Morey
  5. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
  6. There Come a Soldier Peggy Mercer
  7. Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
  8. Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin
  9. The Wood – Chelsea Bobulski
  10. Man O’War – Walter Farley
  11. The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings
  12. Sarah Bishop, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains – Scott O’Dell
  13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
  14. Ever the Hunted– Erin Summerill
  15. Hoot – Carl Hiassen
  16. Dividing Eden – Joelle Charbonneau
  17. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  18. Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Re-reading a seasonal favorite, “The Christmas Box,” by Richard Paul Evans.

Best Nonfiction

  1. A Prisoner and Yet – Corrie ten Boom
  2. The Kite Runner (historical fiction) – Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Black Dogs Project – Fred Levy
  4. Before Amen – Max Lucado
  5. My Family for the War (historical novel) – Anne Voorhoeve
  6. Great Lodges of the National Parks – Christine Barnes
  7. Hidden Child – Isaac Millman

Best Series

  1. The Misty of Chincoteague series – Marguerite Henry
  2. The Silver Brumby series – Elyne Mitchell
  3. Billy and Blaze books– C.W. Anderson
  4. The Jimmy Vega mystery series – Suzanne Chazin
  5. Black Stallion series– Walter Farley
  6. The Survivors series – Erin Hunter
  7. Fire and Thorns trilogy – Rae Carson

Favorite Authors

Honorable Mentions

Well, woof the deck! Or something. All this reading and book-ing makes me hungry. About that leftover pot roast… You gonna eat that?

 

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5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather and Turkey Leftovers

I was just a young pup last Thanksgiving. Chewing on slippers. Dish towels. Wayward fingers. Learning Come. Down. Jump. Sit and Stay. Also how to jitterbug. That just kinda happened. I mean, who can listen to In the Mood sitting still?

Anyway. I’m coming up on two and a half years now. So I’m leaving all that baby stuff behind. Well, some of it. But I’ve gotten pretty good at chasing fallen leaves. Wearing that stupid “doggie jacket” Mom insists on when the temperature drops below forty degrees. Swiping turkey leftovers when no one’s lookin’.

Even though it’s cold and crisp outside, it’s not all bad. A neighbor’s cat, Sir Puddleglum, is staying indoors most of the time. (That’s not the orange tabby’s real name. I just call him that because it gets his goat. Or his cat nip. Whatever.)

Anyway again. Apple cider. Crunching leaves. Snoozing by the fireplace. Mom says fall is a great time to re-read some favorite authors. She showed me her list. I’m passing it on to you at no extra charge. (Don’t tell anyone.)

5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather (in no particular order):

1. Earl Hamner, Jr.

Hamner is best known as the creator, executive producer, and warm narrative voice of The Waltons. He wrote several books, including the autobiographical Spencer’s Mountain and The Homecoming. The latter inspired the movie of the same name. It became the pilot that launched The Waltons. You can almost hear the snow fall… G’night John Boy…

2. Jill Hucklesby

Never heard of her? Me neither. Until Mom swooped into the library and yanked Samphire Song off a shelf. The librarian said it was on the “weeding” (death) list. She felt sorry for it. Read it. Loved it. Said it’s brisk. Engaging. Beautifully written, with memorable characters. The story revolves around a young girl, Jodie, and her half-wild stallion, Samphire. Both are damaged. They inch their ways toward healing together.

3. John Eldredge

A multi-published author of best sellers like Wild at Heart, John is a Mom perennial favorite. He has a warm, cogent, and down-to-earth writing style. Bonus points: I hear John’s a Dog Guy.

4. Richard Paul Evans

Mom says this guy is a prolific, award-winning author perhaps best known for The Christmas Box. Richard publishes a book every year, usually when temperatures start dropping. Says Mom: Richard’s gentle, uplifting stories are a great choice for curl-up-near-the-fireplace reading!

5. Gary Paulsen

Looking for larger-than-life outdoor adventure told with a keen eye for detail and a gritty, spunky writing style? Gary Paulsen’s your guy, according to Mom. His many books include The Hatchet series, Dogsong, Harris and Me, Woodsong, and Winterdance.

Even Sir Puddleglum can’t complain about that.

Hey. You gonna to finish that turkey sandwich? Askin’ for a friend.

Review of “Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25”

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

By Richard Paul Evans

“Is this like a series?  When’s the next one coming out?  Can we get it tomorrow?”

High praise for any book, but coming from my twelve year-old son?  We’re talkin’ statospheric.  I mean, I had to arm-wrestle the kid for Richard Paul Evans’s new release, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25.   Good thing I’m a fast reader.  I zoomed through all three hundred and twenty-six pages in two days.

I’m not kidding.  Vey is a barn burner.  Page-turner.  Whatever.

Fourteen year-old Michael Vey is smack in the middle of life’s “armpit”: freshman year at Meriden High School.  He seems like an incredibly “average” kid.  The only thing that may set him apart is furious eye-blinking when he’s nervous, attributable to Tourette’s syndrome.  Michael’s one – and only – friend is portly, resourceful brainiac Ostin (he was born in Texas.  His mom was a poor speller.  Figure it out.).

Michael would like nothing better than to be left alone and just try to survive high school, but a trio of local thugs won’t let him.  They’re among the first to encounter Michael’s secret first-hand when they try “pantsing” him after school as cheerleader and drop-dead gorgeous Taylor walks by.

Michael later finds out that he and Taylor aren’t as different as he thought.  They both share special electrical powers. Michael, Ostin and Taylor form the “Electroclan.” Everything’s going swimmingly until Ostin detects some coincides between Michael and Taylor that are way too similar for mere coincidence – like the fact that they were born in the same hospital, in the same state, a day apart, and that nearly all other babies born in the same hospital within that time frame died.  The trio sets out to find out why.  In the process, they stumble upon the “Who?” – and wish they hadn’t.  Enter the darkly sunglassed, mysterious Dr. Hatch.

A megalomaniac par excellence, the ‘ethically challenged’ Hatch (that’s an understatement) has been looking for Taylor and Michael for nearly fifteen years.  When Michael’s mom is kidnapped, as is Taylor,  it’s up to Michael and Ostin to launch a daring rescue against seemingly overwhelming odds.  They must rely on wit, tenacity and each other to succeed.  But who can they trust to help?  Who else is after them, and what do they want?  Will the boys arrive before it’s too late?  And what happened to Michael’s dad?

Evans has ranked high on my Favorite Authors short list for years, ever since The Christmas Box.  As a YA novel, Vey represents a significant departure from Evans’s usual themes and treatments. It’s a different “cup of tea.”  Very different.  And Evans pulls it off beautifully!  The story is a skillful combination of action, suspense, mystery, romance, science and humor into an imaginative fiction with characters that are real and genuine.  We want to meet them again.  The plot is engaging, brisk and clever.  A keeper!

And the next title in the Vey series, The Rise of Elgen?  Not to worry.  My son and have it on hold at the library.  In fact, we’re first in line.