Library of Souls: The last book in the Ransom Riggs trilogy did not disapoint-- but I wasn’t left quite as happy as I thought I might be either. Look, it is hard to stick the landing sometimes, and in the end I think this book did it, but I will admit the ending felt a little… easy. Even still, it doesn’t lose the heart and the shockingly beautiful prose that the rest of the series brought and the trilogy stands as one of my best reads of this year.
Gunslinger: My first Stephen King novel. It is dark, and it is certainly uncomfortable, but I don’t think it ever crosses into crudenss-- a label I have heard lobed at King. You’ll have to be the judge in the end, and the is language here that is off puting, but all of it serves a purpose rather that be theme, world building, or characterization-- and in the end, I think that eliminates the crude label entirely and it becomes an argument of taste. At times it was a bit much for my sensibilities, but the world was strange enough early on to keep me, and then the characters and plot began to come to life within it and I was hooked. It is a unique take on the fantasy genre, and perhaps most impressively, and many of King’s plot choices are counterintuitive--and more than a little risky-- but he manages to pull it off fairly well.
On Mice and Men- a short novel that packs a punch, there’s a reason it is a staple in the educational lives of many American children growing up. The plot is simple, the characters are fairly archetypal, and yet Steinbeck manages to explore the faults and beauty of men in the time it would have taken many authors to get past set up.
Crocodile Tears: I was a big fan of the Alex Rider series in my middle school days. It is a simple enough premise: James Bond as a teenager. As a boy I spent many hours living in Alex Rider’s world, and for as cheesy as the premise could have been I think Horowitz walks the line skillfully in most of the series, balancing the bombastic spy world with the realistic problems and dreams of a teenage boy. I was excited to read the final novel in the series, but found it a bit of a mixed bag. There is a lot to like here, but a new character is introduced that we spend sooo much time with, and while I see why he did it, I think the result is a disjointed prose with pace problems. It is, in the end, a satisfying end to the series, but as stand alone piece it falls a little flat.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: As Harry grows up, so does his readers, and we begin to dive into the themes danced around in previous books such as death. It does this without ever losing the charm and wonderment that readers flock to. It deserves to be held up with the rest of the books in the series. The time travel plot is, however, a mistep.
Monstrumologist One: A found-journal style book written from the viewpoint of a young orphan boy under the care and apprenticeship of a Monstrumologist in 19th century New England. It is an excellent introduction to gothic literature.The characters are surprisingly complex, and the content is surprisingly unabashed for its younger audience. The prose, which is written in 19th century english, has moments of brilliance. There are times when the word choices dip into self-indulgence, but for the most part Yancy is better than that.
Paper Girls: Matthew Vauhn is a genius that deserves the respect from the literary world given out to the likes of Rowling and Chabon. Seriously, this guy is that good. His stories have everything a reader looks for: creative worlds, full dimensional characters, witty diologue, and compelling plot. He does this despite an almost constant shift in the genre in which he tells his stories. Paper Girls is no exception, and for you weirdos who like a visual medium for its art your in for a treat.
Ultimate Spider-Man: A how-to-guide on writing origin stories and reboots disguised as a comic book. John Michael Bendis knocks it out of the park and accomplishes the ridiculous task of replacing the legendary Peter Parker with new comer Miles Morales. That is to say nothing about how deftly he handles themes of race and poverty within the story of a teenage boy coming to grips with his new found (I can’t help myself) responsibilities. Oh, and the art is swell.
*In order to make sure I had enough books to share with you each month, I started with the books I have read recently. I will catch up to myself within a few months.
LA is Editor-in-Chief and Head Writer at Lot 10 Underground. He is an avid Eagles fan and a weary Lakers one. He grew up sneaking through the halls of Hogwarts after dark with Harry and his more talented friends, stumbling along the dark walls of Rock Tunnel in Pokemon Red, storming through flood riddled ships with Master Chief, and questioning Goku's parenting techniques in DBZ. If you'd like to contact him, you can try an owl, but he prefers e-mail: