Great Books and Why I Like Them
Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Series
What I like best about Sanderson's Mistborn series is the concept of using metals as magic. Who doesn't like the idea of being able to push or pull on metal or emotions?
Vin's a great character too. She didn't ask to be a hero, but she's not afraid to step up and take on that role. This is classic good vs evil with some interesting twists throughout the series. There's no denying that this series is a time investment, but it's well worth it. I think each book is well over 600 pages, but the dialogue and action mix nicely so as to hold the reader's interest throughout.
Bug Man Series by Tim Downs
Shoofly Pie - our introduction to the quirky, bookish, but certainly not squeamish hero, Professor Nick Polchak. The author, Tim Downs introduces readers to a man who studies bugs for a living and catches killers along the way. Incidentally, Downs has a nice, very funny writing style that is easy to read. Perhaps not for those who don't really like murder mysteries or like traditional murder mysteries too much.
Chop Shop - Nick's back and so are the bad guys and their evil little schemes to make themselves filthy rich by preying on the weak.
First the Dead - Nick's in New Orleans to help out after Hurricane Katrina, but he finds bodies that were dead before the hurricane. The question becomes who's using the natural disaster to hide a not so natural disaster, like murder?
Less Than Dead - Cadaver dogs can find people who are slightly less than dead, good thing to 'cause Nick gets himself in enough trouble to need 'em.
Go to amazon or bn or something if you want more thorough reviews. I read these books a while ago, so I couldn't tell you detailed plot points if I wanted to. What I can tell you is why I like the series. First, they're funny. In one story, Nick pretends to dissect one of his students to get himself "punished" by the university. No more teaching for an entire summer, what's an Entomology prof to do? Second, who doesn't like bugs and dead bodies? Third, the hero's believable. He's not strikingly handsome or buff, but he's got brains and the wherewithall to use them. Fourth, forensic science can catch real killers, but sometimes it misses. At least in the stories, you know things work out in the end. Maybe they're not all fluffy little happy endings, but they've got some closure, which is more than can be said for some real world cases.
Tim Downs Books
The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill
The Cry of the Icemark - Princess Thirrin of the Icemark must forge alliances like crazy if she wants to stop her tiny little frozen country from being overrun by the Polypontian Empire.
Blade of Fire - Twenty something years have passed. Queen Thirrin and her Warlock husband keep busy with a new war against the Empire. The evil general guy's back and ready to try his hand again at taking over the world. Again the Alliance of Vampires, Wolf-folk, and citizens of the Icemark must band together to fight back. Meanwhile, Prince Sharley travels way down south to forge a new alliance. And Princess Medea plots to overthrown the kingdom. Good times.
Last Battle of the Icemark - Medea's been banished but not vanquished for good, so she plans a triumphant return. While battles rage on the mystic plains, Thirrin must race off to war once again, but this time she's fighting to save her enemies.
Why I like them: They're decently well-written, got timely dark humor, not above potty humor, and got a lovely battle cry. Besides, the traditional bad guys, vampires and the like, get to be the good guys for once.
Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries
Suffice to say there are way too many of these to list here. I haven't sampled all the Nancy Drew series, but I have tried most. There are matching "series" for the Hardy Boys so I won't repeat myself. Here's a quick rundown.
Casefiles (paperback) - run about 150 pages. First 50 pages: Nancy gets introduced to the mystery, meets all the key characters, etc. Second 50 pages: includes the bulk of the investigation itself. At the end of this section/ beginning of next section there's a huge break in the case. Last 50ish pages includes the wrapup, life threatening situation, and congratulations all around for a job well done.
Regular mysteries (paperback) - tend to be slightly longer than the casefiles, though the print in many is also bigger, so perhaps it is the same size manuscript. These typically run b/t 180 pages to 220 pages. They run a pattern similar to the casefiles, only the thirds aren't so neat due to variable page numbers. 1/3 intro, 1/3 expansion, and 1/3 wrap-up. Nancy (and the Hardy Boys in their respective series) always gets her guy (or gal).
Supermysteries - for some odd reason, these are my favorites. They include Nancy Drew, Frank Hardy, Joe Hardy, and usually at least one other person. Many times the other person is Bess Marvin, Nancy's best friend. I think one reason I like them is that they go some pretty neat places, like Egypt and Europe. Nancy and her friends travel to many places in other mysteries, but it always seemed cooler in these books, probably because this was my first type of exposure to the series at all.
Hard-cover books - Nancy Drew books run in two series, a blue hardcover series and a yellow hardcover series. I think they're the same stories mostly, but the blue hardcovers were published first around the 1950's. The stories were updated a few decades later because times had changed so much.
I've read over 500 Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. I'm not a fan of the newest rendition of Nancy, the first person books, they seemed far more childish than the older, more classic books. I think in the first of the newer ones she's trying to find out a cucumber thief or something ridiculous like that. In any case, they're still publishing Nancy Drew, but my heart will always lie with the older ones.
If you want to read some of these mysteries without spending a whole heap of money, check out ebay, garage sales, and book fairs. Typically, book fairs will have some of the older, hardcover Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books in a "rare" or "old" section. You may pay more for these, but you can usually get them for about $2.00. Good luck.
Hilights of Star Wars New Jedi Order *spoiler warning
Writing 19 books that follow one massive story arc is quite a feat, but it's no surprise that a powerhouse name like Star Wars took it on. I wonder why they didn't go for 20 books.
Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore - Star Wars fans get a bombshell dropped on their heads when a moon takes out Chewie.
Dark Tide 1: Onslaught by Michael Stackpole
Dark Tide 2: Ruin by Michael Stackpole
Agents of Chaos 1: Hero's Trial by James Luceno
Agents of Chaos 2: Jedi Eclipse by James Luceno
Balance Point by Kathy Tyers - Jacen Solo tries to find a good balance between aggression and defense.
Edge of Victory 1: Conquest by Greg Keyes - Anakin Solo and Tahiri Veila find they may not just be best of friends.
Edge of Victory 2: Rebirth by Greg Keyes - hope reborn in the form of Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker's son, Ben.
Star By Star by Troy Denning - dark tides come with the death of a hero
Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham - stand alone starring Jaina Solo and her dance with the dark side.
Enemy Lines 1: Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston - don't remember a whole lot about this one except that it had Wedge in it and I read it twice.
Enemy Lines 2: Rebel Stand by Aaron Allston
Traitor by Matthew Stover - this guy writes weird, but it suits the time of Jacen Solo's captivity by the Vong.
Destiny's Way by Walter Jon Williams
Force Heretic 1: Remnant by Sean Williams and Shane Dix - a largely forgettable series; I think it has Han blundering about trying to get his head screwed back on straight.
Force Heretic 2: Refugee
Force Heretic 3: Reunion
The Final Prophecy by Greg Keyes
The Unifying Force by James Luceno - a satisfying end to a largely decent series. Jacen Solo finds that balance point he was searching for so darn hard.
Star Wars New Jedi Order
Dmitri by Jamey Cohen
A strange little book, something you could truly call a pocket paperback, yet an amusing and interesting tale of time-dislocation.
I've never been hypnotized, but after reading this book, not sure I would want to be, even though I know this is just a work of fiction and what happened couldn't really happen to me. It's just that disturbing to imagine your mind over thrown by a imperious little twerp from 4 centuries past.
I picked the book up at a book fair, and I must say, it's one of the best books I've ever gotten from one of those catch-all book fairs. The concept is interesting and the writing is decent. The characters aren't terribly well developed, but that's okay, the ones who need to be are. The ending is oddly satisfying as well. If you can find it, go for it.