Favorite Books of 2011

It was a strange year of reading for me.

I know I read a fair amount of books. Some just didn’t stick with me. There were several books that I started and didn’t finish. I’m getting picky. I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t grab me. I don’t have as much patience to give a book a chance either. They’d better grab me in a few chapters at most, or I’m moving on.

When it came time to put together my favorites, I had to think a little. A couple of books aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I really enjoyed them. One is considered “pulp fiction.” Shouldn’t a best of list be selective?

Nah. These are the fiction books I enjoyed the most in 2011.

6.  Pattern Of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. This is the second book in a series about Roland March, a homicide detective in Houston who almost burned out in the first book. Here he is continuing to deal with doubts about his ability even as he deals with a potential mistake in his past. I don’t read a lot of the hard-boiled detective stories, but if I did, Bertrand would make me very picky, because he gets into the mindset of March so well. The story simmers, and the themes of the book are deftly handled. As I said in my July review – no sophomore slump here.

5. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren. The first book in the River of Time series. Two teenagers are in Italy with their archeologist mother, far from any social action. When the girls enter an ancient tomb, they are thrust into 14th century times, with knights and castles. Headstrong Gabi is separated from her sister Lia, and she is rescued by Lord Marcello. Bergren has done other novels in this setting, and her research and setting is top notch. It is supposed to be a Teen fiction book, geared toward girls. I don’t care. Good writing is good writing, and I’m a sucker for romance when done right.

4. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones. After writing this post, I’m going to lose my man card. I picked this book up for my wife to read for a blog tour, but I had heard Jenny was a funny writer. I flipped through the first chapter, curious about her humor. I finished the book in a few days. Lucy needs a sponsor to save her girls’ home. Former QB Alex Sinclair needs an image makeover in his race for Congress. He’ll make sure Lucy’s charity gets funding if she acts as his fiancee through the race. Who knew such a plot would snap me in without nary an explosion? Again, good writing is good writing. And I got a shout out from Ms. Jones, so it was all good.

3. The Resurrection by Mike Duran. OK, so I break the pattern of initials in these authors. I’ve referenced Mike’s blog Decompose for a long time, and was excited to read his debut novel. Reverand Ian Clark is doubting his own faith, even as he struggles leading a California church. When one of his congregants, Ruby, is associated with a resurrection of a boy, he doesn’t know how to take the miraculous. Ruby doesn’t know why God chose her for a miracle, and the sleepy town they live in may not continue to sleep with such supernatural happenings occuring. It is suspenseful, a little creepy, and very thoughtful. Lots more on it, including an interview with Mike, here.

2. Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett. I think having a zombie book in here should cancel out the chick books above ;). Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer without a soul. Most people think lawyers don’t have souls, but she really is undead. She doesn’t look the part, but brains are her staple, along with justice for the oppressed. When she discovers a conspriracy that may be leading to Lucifer setting up his new base of operations in LA, will Mallory be able to stand up for the living and undead alike. This book reads amazingly like James Scott Bell’s work, but I’m sure it is just a coincidence…

Finally, my favorite book from 2011 is:

The Monster In The Hollows by Andrew Peterson.
Andrew Peterson is just about the favored all-around creative person of Spoiled For The Ordinary. He is an amazing musician, but his YA series The Wingfeather Saga is a wonderful combination of adventure, whimsy, suspense, and heart. Monster is the third book in the series that features the Igiby children, who were once normal children, until the siblings found out they are the lost heirs of a conquered kingdom and are hunted by the terrible Fangs of Dang and a Nameless Evil (know as Gnag the Nameless). One part Princess Bride, one part lyrical language, and a dash of Lord Of The Rings equals this excellent book and series. If you don’t believe me, my kids will tell you the same.

That’s it for fiction in 2011. There’s one other book that greatly impacted me last year, and I will share about it soon.

What books did you enjoy over the last year?

Favorite Books of 2011

It was a strange year of reading for me.

I know I read a fair amount of books. Some just didn’t stick with me. There were several books that I started and didn’t finish. I’m getting picky. I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t grab me. I don’t have as much patience to give a book a chance either. They’d better grab me in a few chapters at most, or I’m moving on.

When it came time to put together my favorites, I had to think a little. A couple of books aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I really enjoyed them. One is considered “pulp fiction.” Shouldn’t a best of list be selective?

Nah. These are the fiction books I enjoyed the most in 2011.

6.  Pattern Of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. This is the second book in a series about Roland March, a homicide detective in Houston who almost burned out in the first book. Here he is continuing to deal with doubts about his ability even as he deals with a potential mistake in his past. I don’t read a lot of the hard-boiled detective stories, but if I did, Bertrand would make me very picky, because he gets into the mindset of March so well. The story simmers, and the themes of the book are deftly handled. As I said in my July review – no sophomore slump here.

5. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren. The first book in the River of Time series. Two teenagers are in Italy with their archeologist mother, far from any social action. When the girls enter an ancient tomb, they are thrust into 14th century times, with knights and castles. Headstrong Gabi is separated from her sister Lia, and she is rescued by Lord Marcello. Bergren has done other novels in this setting, and her research and setting is top notch. It is supposed to be a Teen fiction book, geared toward girls. I don’t care. Good writing is good writing, and I’m a sucker for romance when done right.

4. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones. After writing this post, I’m going to lose my man card. I picked this book up for my wife to read for a blog tour, but I had heard Jenny was a funny writer. I flipped through the first chapter, curious about her humor. I finished the book in a few days. Lucy needs a sponsor to save her girls’ home. Former QB Alex Sinclair needs an image makeover in his race for Congress. He’ll make sure Lucy’s charity gets funding if she acts as his fiancee through the race. Who knew such a plot would snap me in without nary an explosion? Again, good writing is good writing. And I got a shout out from Ms. Jones, so it was all good.

3. The Resurrection by Mike Duran. OK, so I break the pattern of initials in these authors. I’ve referenced Mike’s blog Decompose for a long time, and was excited to read his debut novel. Reverand Ian Clark is doubting his own faith, even as he struggles leading a California church. When one of his congregants, Ruby, is associated with a resurrection of a boy, he doesn’t know how to take the miraculous. Ruby doesn’t know why God chose her for a miracle, and the sleepy town they live in may not continue to sleep with such supernatural happenings occuring. It is suspenseful, a little creepy, and very thoughtful. Lots more on it, including an interview with Mike, here.

2. Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett. I think having a zombie book in here should cancel out the chick books above ;). Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer without a soul. Most people think lawyers don’t have souls, but she really is undead. She doesn’t look the part, but brains are her staple, along with justice for the oppressed. When she discovers a conspriracy that may be leading to Lucifer setting up his new base of operations in LA, will Mallory be able to stand up for the living and undead alike. This book reads amazingly like James Scott Bell’s work, but I’m sure it is just a coincidence…

Finally, my favorite book from 2011 is:

The Monster In The Hollows by Andrew Peterson.
Andrew Peterson is just about the favored all-around creative person of Spoiled For The Ordinary. He is an amazing musician, but his YA series The Wingfeather Saga is a wonderful combination of adventure, whimsy, suspense, and heart. Monster is the third book in the series that features the Igiby children, who were once normal children, until the siblings found out they are the lost heirs of a conquered kingdom and are hunted by the terrible Fangs of Dang and a Nameless Evil (know as Gnag the Nameless). One part Princess Bride, one part lyrical language, and a dash of Lord Of The Rings equals this excellent book and series. If you don’t believe me, my kids will tell you the same.

That’s it for fiction in 2011. There’s one other book that greatly impacted me last year, and I will share about it soon.

What books did you enjoy over the last year?

Book Review – Pattern Of Wounds

Sophmore slump?
Look somewhere else.
J. Mark Bertrand hit the CBA scene big-time with last year’s Back On Murder. I reviewed it here, and it ended up as one of my favorite books of the year.

His latest book, Pattern Of Wounds, looks to continue the…pattern.

Houston homicide detective Roland March is still battling. A year ago he was on the verge of being booted out of his department. He solved a high-profile case and solidified his position, but he isn’t out of the woods yet. His lieutenant is riding him, and his captain is angling for a promotion, leaving March on an island.

When he responds to a woman’s body found patially floating in a pool, he sees more than any other investigator. He sees a parallel to a murder he worked 10 years ago, one that was popularized in a true crime book.
He works the leads in the case, but promising trails grow cold. Another detective suggests a serial killer link, one that includes his old case – meaning the wrong person could be in jail.
March presses ahead, determined to prove the doubters wrong, but he may be alienating allies in the process. Even as the killer presses a little too close to home, March struggles to see the pattern of wounds in time.
I said last year that Bertrand was pushing some boundaries of Christian fiction. I hold to that statement this year, but I want to clarify it: he is pushing the borders of quality, not just borders of content.
I don’t read a lot of this genre, the hard-boiled detective mystery. However, if I knew it was all like Bertrand’s work, I would have to change. He has elevated his craft since the first book. The book is told in the first person view of March. Bertrand keeps March as a character we empathize with, even as he has demons and conflict, and a few views or habits we may not like. He’s real, he has the feel of a real homicide detective. It isn’t sugar-coated, but it is gritty without being gratuitous.
The plot moves along nicely, not a burning pace, but evenly stretched between action, investigation, and introspection. He paints wonderful detail to place us in March’s eyes. I underlined a line mentioning “a puff of [shaving cream] foam clinging to the cap.” Such a small detail, but it helped me see the eagle eye March has as a detective.
The book is deeper than a crime drama. The title is a powerful metaphor for the case March is working on and the battles in his life. He’s wounded, and in showing us his dirty laundry, it allows for exploration of why evil exists, the power of faith, and the struggle of life.
There was one complaint – a thread that was developed for a time early on seemed to disappear in the end. I like books that don’t tie every thread into a tidy little bow, but this wasn’t loose, it seemed lost. It wasn’t a big deal – I didn’t realize until after finishing, but I wanted to temper my otherwise high enthusiasm for this book.
Bottom line: if I wrote crime fiction, I would study Mark Bertrand’s novels, because the craft and enjoyment springing from that is so good. If you like this genre at all, you should really check this book out. Even if it isn’t your main reading flavor, it is worth reading.
Legal mumbo-jumbo: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for promotion via the CFBA Tour, but with no promise of a good review. My thoughts are my own (anyone else wouldn’t want them anyway!)

Book Review – Pattern Of Wounds

Sophmore slump?
Look somewhere else.
J. Mark Bertrand hit the CBA scene big-time with last year’s Back On Murder. I reviewed it here, and it ended up as one of my favorite books of the year.

His latest book, Pattern Of Wounds, looks to continue the…pattern.

Houston homicide detective Roland March is still battling. A year ago he was on the verge of being booted out of his department. He solved a high-profile case and solidified his position, but he isn’t out of the woods yet. His lieutenant is riding him, and his captain is angling for a promotion, leaving March on an island.

When he responds to a woman’s body found patially floating in a pool, he sees more than any other investigator. He sees a parallel to a murder he worked 10 years ago, one that was popularized in a true crime book.
He works the leads in the case, but promising trails grow cold. Another detective suggests a serial killer link, one that includes his old case – meaning the wrong person could be in jail.
March presses ahead, determined to prove the doubters wrong, but he may be alienating allies in the process. Even as the killer presses a little too close to home, March struggles to see the pattern of wounds in time.
I said last year that Bertrand was pushing some boundaries of Christian fiction. I hold to that statement this year, but I want to clarify it: he is pushing the borders of quality, not just borders of content.
I don’t read a lot of this genre, the hard-boiled detective mystery. However, if I knew it was all like Bertrand’s work, I would have to change. He has elevated his craft since the first book. The book is told in the first person view of March. Bertrand keeps March as a character we empathize with, even as he has demons and conflict, and a few views or habits we may not like. He’s real, he has the feel of a real homicide detective. It isn’t sugar-coated, but it is gritty without being gratuitous.
The plot moves along nicely, not a burning pace, but evenly stretched between action, investigation, and introspection. He paints wonderful detail to place us in March’s eyes. I underlined a line mentioning “a puff of [shaving cream] foam clinging to the cap.” Such a small detail, but it helped me see the eagle eye March has as a detective.
The book is deeper than a crime drama. The title is a powerful metaphor for the case March is working on and the battles in his life. He’s wounded, and in showing us his dirty laundry, it allows for exploration of why evil exists, the power of faith, and the struggle of life.
There was one complaint – a thread that was developed for a time early on seemed to disappear in the end. I like books that don’t tie every thread into a tidy little bow, but this wasn’t loose, it seemed lost. It wasn’t a big deal – I didn’t realize until after finishing, but I wanted to temper my otherwise high enthusiasm for this book.
Bottom line: if I wrote crime fiction, I would study Mark Bertrand’s novels, because the craft and enjoyment springing from that is so good. If you like this genre at all, you should really check this book out. Even if it isn’t your main reading flavor, it is worth reading.
Legal mumbo-jumbo: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for promotion via the CFBA Tour, but with no promise of a good review. My thoughts are my own (anyone else wouldn’t want them anyway!)