From fantasy to autobiography, 2012 is good year for reading
One thing we can depend on, year-in, year-out, is the continuing excellence of fiction for teens and young adults. And one book that remained in my mind for many months after reading it was the fierce and thrilling fantasy Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse.
This magical book is a companion to Barnhouse’s 2011 The Coming of the Dragon, which was itself a companion to the epic poem Beowulf. I could tell you about the rich Scandinavian imagery and descriptions of Iron Age longhouses, drinking horns and Thor-worship, but the best thing this book gave me was the impetus to reread Beowulf, in Seamus Heaney’s 1999 translation.
Another fantasy is The Crimson Crown, the epic conclusion of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series, in which a street thief rises to a place on the Wizard Council, and another wizard pursues the queen, in a near-parallel to the story of a millenium-ago Demon King.
Other young-adult fiction was more contemporary but tinged with the supernatural, like Jeannine Garsee’s The Unquiet and Mara Purnhagen’s One Hundred Candles and Siobhan Vivian’s revenge tale Burn for Burn. For the youngest children, Beacon Journal artist Rick Steinhauser’s illustrations illuminate the simple story of I Love You to the Moon by Melissa Ivey Stehli.
In adult fiction, The Essay by Robin Yocum and At Dawn by Joby Hughes were like light and dark: Both about young men raised in poverty, with drunken fathers and no role models, who have the opportunity to improve their desperate situations if they’re diligent and work hard. Yokum’s character takes the chance.
Other distinctive novels include the topical: The World We Found by former Beacon Journal reporter Thrity Umrigar, Craig McDonald’s El Gavilan and Master Blaster by P.F. Kluge; the historical: A Mouthful of Dust by Douglas Savage, Gold Mountain by Karen J. Hasley; and the humorous: Ian Frazier’s scandalously funny The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days and Julie Anne Lindsey’s farce Death by Chocolate.
Other fiction of merit this year included The Prophet (Michael Koryta), Wish Book (Rhonda Keith), the short-story collections Stay Awake (Dan Chaon) and Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World (Pat Pujolas), Jigsaw Man (Marvin Brown) and Gone Missing (Linda Castillo).
Notable memoirs we saw were Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu’s Off Balance, Burn Down the Ground by former Akronite Kambri Crews and the dark Giving Up the Ghost by Eric Nuzum.
In the mystery field, authors kept their series rolling. Amanda Flower of Tallmadge continued her India Hayes series with Murder in a Basket, and launched her Appleseed Creek mysteries with A Plain Death. Casey Daniels added two installments to her fun Pepper Martin series with Wild, Wild Death and Supernatural Born Killers. Stow author Les Roberts added Whiskey Island, his 16th in another Cleveland-set series, the Milan Jacovich mysteries. A standalone fiction debut was the creepy The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner.
We received romances of different eras and spiciness levels: Becky Lower’s The Reluctant Debutante concerned an 1855 suffragette, while Rena Koontz’s Love Secret Fire found a present-day reporter investigating arson. Erin McCarthy’s Jacked Up continues her Fast Track auto racing-themed series; all show that romance readers welcome e-books.
Smoke, by the accomplished poet Jeanne Bryner, returns to her themes of nursing and her Appalachian roots for a memorable collection.
Local history looked at bygone retail with Gone But Not Forgotten: A Freedlander Legacy by Ann Freedlander Hunt and Cleveland Christmas Memories by Gail Ghetia Bellamy, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary with Where Greatness Lives by Joe Horrigan and Joe Thorne and World War II memories in Sorrows Revisited: Personal Histories, France 1940-1944 by Erwin David Riedner.
Two weight-loss books couldn’t have been more different, but each was interesting and entertaining: Chubster: A Hipster’s Guide to Losing Weight While Staying Cool by Martin Cizmar and How a Middle-Aged Scientist Lost 77 Pounds in 12 Months by Boone Triplett. Non-fiction took the form of essay collections like Tasteful Nudes by comic Dave Hill and Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Connection; nature studies like Julie Zickefoose’s The Bluebird Effect; and personal accounts Circling the Waggins: How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me From Bewilderness by C.A. Wulff, Biking Through by Paul Stutzman, And Now We Shall Do Manly Things by Craig Heimbuch and Relentless Goodbye: Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia by Ginnie Horst Burkholder.
Read lots of books in 2013.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 North Main Street, Hudson) — Kent State University alumnae Sarahbeth Caplin signs Someone You Already Know, about rape and sexual assault, 1 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.