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Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters--the Story first--always the Story.

In 2008 Mike earned his masters degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University

Visit Mike on twitter @mikemehalek

Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 reading list and year end review--of sorts

Hey gang, Just thought I'd publish my 2011 completed reading list.  I'm hoping to wrap up the year with Hellbender by Jason Jack Miller

Let me step back though, and if you were looking for the meat and potato book review and apologize because this is only a book review of sorts.  I suppose it's more a reflection of the past year through my reading, a stream of consciousness at best. All I can hope is that you don't judge me too harshly.

If you've made it this far, let me take you back through this year....a year that was a little less productive for my reading, which I blame on my iPhone--curse you Fruit Ninja and all of you evil apps!!  Despite reading fewer books this year than last, 2011 really was a pretty Kick Ass reading year for me.

When I look at this reading list, I realize two things
1. how many of these books are about family (ALL OF THEM!!)
2. how much my life has changed.

Almost a year ago, I lost my father to cancer as I traveled with Roland and his ka-tet on their quest to the Dark Tower. I know it's strange, but in some way Blaine the Pain and Oy and Eddie, and Susannah remind me of my dad.  It's almost as if the losses that they suffered taught me how to grieve my own.  You can imagine how stoked I was to learn of the newest Dark Tower book which will be released next year (The Wind Through the Keyhole).

I broke the Dark Tower series up when I inadvertently left Wolves of the Calla at a restaurant for two weeks, with Paul Harding's Tinkers, another novel which very much deals with family, loss, and death.

The Search for Joseph Tully followed.  Hallahan's classic horror novel was a fun read with its city snowscapes, and I enjoyed all the more because I read them while sailing along the Western Caribbean.  The opening pages were one of the creepiest I've ever read (until, of course I read Gary Braunbeck's In Silent Graves--genius as only Gary brings it).

Zoo Story was heartfelt, funny, and plain old awesome.  In 2011 a puggie named Bella joined my life and I started to appreciate the relationships that the zoo keepers of the Tampa's Lowery Park Zoo had with the likes of Enshalla and Herman.

Much like his previous novel The Brother's Bishop, Bart Yates, reminded me in The Distance Between Us that family does not always share blood, and that sometimes the ones we love most, drive us batty and can be the ones to hurt us the most.  I guess most importantly, the theme of forgiveness hit a chord with me.  It was probably at this time--and the first time that year, that I finally forgave myself for not being back home in PA when my dad died.

The Devil and Preston Black just wowed me, and I find any words I strum up here inadequate. The local color, fluency between reality and unreality, the depths of desire and longing to do the right thing. I can't say enough good.  Most of all, it made me pause and raised the thought that perhaps the best things in our lives are right in front of us, if only we stop to look at them.

Ambassadora was just as impressive.  Character, setting, plot, dialogue...it was all just...WOW!  I really enjoyed the technology Heidi Ruby Miller created for this book from the scentbots to the cenders, to the virtual world itself. The history allowed for the technology and plot to be logical but not contrived. Combining all of these elements couldn't be an easy task, but it was pulled off impeccably. Science fiction full of heart and meaning, while remaining  action-packed and full of tension.

The Snowman had its moments--I mean thinking about how much our parents can influence us as adults is creepy.  My only complaint was that I knew who the Snowman was the second s/he appeared in the book, and no amount of red herrings could detract me from it. But it did have its moments.  Some of the language was wonderful, some was not...but overall fun.

To say that In Silent Graves was fun would likely cause someone to string me up and hang me as a monster; however, it really was awesome.  Gary is one of very few writers out there who can take so many dark themes and show us the real beauty of things we might not normally see, and also teach us about unconditional love.  Gary does this without being cliche--it's effing unbelievably good and he makes it look so easy.

I've not yet finished What the Night Knows but what I can see so far is that it can be pretty dark.

And with that another year fades to black.  What does 2012 hold?  I can only hope to be as enthralled and inspired as I was this year.

Dark Tower series--Stephen King

  • ·      Drawing of the Three (finished in December 2010)
  • ·      The Wastelands
  • ·      Wizards and Glass
  • ·      Wolves of the Calla
  • ·      Song of Susannah
  • ·      The Dark Tower

The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King’s Magnum Opus--Bev Vincent
Tinkers--Paul Harding
The Search for Joseph Tully--William Hallahan
Zoo Story--Thomas French
The Distance Between Us--Bart Yates
The Devil and Preston Black--Jason Jack Miler
Ambassadora--Heidi Ruby Miller
The Snowman Jo Nesobo
In Silent Graves--Gary Braunbeck
What the Night Knows--Dean Koontz