A View from the Library-By John R. Clark, MLIS

Let’s start with a bit of blatant self-promotion, followed by a confession or two. Perfectly appropriate for a crime blog, eh? First off I must mention my first ebook, The Wizard of Simonton Pond which debuted last month and is available in all ebook formats from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc. It’s not a mystery, but a YA fantasy, although the main character, Berek Metcalf certainly has a mystery dropped in his lap when his attempt to invite the girl of his dreams to the Mayflower Dance lands him halfway across the universe, charged with figuring out where in heck he is and why. It’s the first of five books in the Down-East Magicians series, all of which have been written. Here’s a cover shot.

Now for the confession; I said last month that I was going to review a couple of first attempt YA mysteries this month, but finished only one of them. However, it’s a perfect example of great talent mauled by poor editing and proofreading.  The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch by Ashland Menshouse combines fantasy and mystery elements quite nicely. The five kids who are as different as they can be, grew on me and became a believable gang of good guys. The scary characters were just campy enough to be fun while still retaining an aura of menace and the plot was a dandy; a tomb that had to be opened in order to draw a horde of baddies into our world, a clan of bigfoot-like critters who were trying to prevent it from happening, an awful homeless lady who knew plenty more than she was letting on to, a super-nasty couple of siblings that regularly tormented the two boys who were best friends and a ghost who was under a curse that only the Cruella DeVille clone could lift.
I liked the book a lot despite some really glaring faults. First, the author had a prologue and an epilogue, neither of which added anything and probably turned off some prospective readers. Secondly there were far too many instances where the kids (and sometimes the adults) didn’t speak, they sniveled, sneered, jeered, smirked or glared. After a while it got old. So why bother writing about it? Well, as noted, despite all the shortcomings the story was pretty good and some readers will do what I did, ignore the dross and sip on the nectar. I really hope the author keeps writing as he has real talent.

I’ve been extremely lucky. Both of our daughters turned out to be avid readers and continue to do so. Their taste in books/authors is very similar to mine and we pass suggestions back and forth all the time. When Sara Beth was in high school, she was a huge Tamora Pierce fan. I discovered this by accident when I mentioned that Tamora was doing a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Augusta. Neither of us were able to go, but the upshot was that I started reading her books. I’ve read everything she has written and have introduced plenty of teens, both male and female to her characters going back to Alanna who was (and still is) perhaps the first real female heroine who became one in a traditionally male role and at a time when girls were less than.
Her most recent series; Terrier, Bloodhound and Mastiff have a nice mix of magic and mystery to qualify as the latter in my mind. The main character Beka Cooper gets the chance of a lifetime after acting on an impulse and coming to the attention of a noble who recognizes her untrained skills and offers her a chance as a puppy in the Dogs, the slang term for the Provost’s Guard. Beka, having grown up in the slums, has to battle her roughness and self-doubt while learning that being a Dog sometimes means having to turn in your own family.
The world, the inhabitants and the relationships as Beka grows through the three books make for great reading. I’m aware that the latest book, Mastiff, is getting a fair amount of criticism in reader reviews, but the series is still a dandy one to get into. When I closed the book, I felt a tiny wave of sadness because it was probably the end of Beka Cooper. In fact if you know any youngster who might like books with strong female characters (or as Tamora puts it, ‘girl heroes who kick butt’), you can’t go wrong suggesting any of her work.

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1 Response to A View from the Library-By John R. Clark, MLIS

  1. Congrats on the book, John!

    I became a Tamora Pierce fan when my then-13-year-old daughter started reading her books. (I’ve discovered one of the great things bout parenting is that your kids expose you to literature you might not otherwise dabble in.) That daughter is now 19, but when Ms. Pierce came to Smith College to speak, Victoria and her friends went nuts with fandulation.

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