Today we shall look at the following three categories: Historical Fiction, Young Adult and Science Fiction/Fantasy
I am spoilt for choice when it comes to the Historical Fiction section, as I have been blessed to have read some incredible books, this year, in this category. Of all the genres, historical fiction is possibly one of the hardest to write. There are always readers out there who will delight in telling you when you have made an historical error in your books. This is a good thing, as it keeps us authors on our toes - but perhaps one of the reasons I have shied away from writing in this genre.
After much vigorous internal debate (yes, I do talk to myself in my head - regularly) I think all authors do, to be honest, I've had to nominate three books in this category this year, simply because the standard is just so damn high. Bear in mind, these are independent authors (Indies), many of them without the benefit of fact-checking editors and yet they are producing historical fiction of the utmost caliber. These books are all right up there with the very best of the legacy published authors and each of these three, should be very proud of their results.
The first nominee in this category is a book that takes us right back to the very earliest of civilizations, one which we have previously heard little of.
I The Sun, by Janet Morris, is a monumental novel that details the life of a previously unknown Hittite King, one Tasmisarri or Suppiluliumas (literally - The Sun). As someone who, in the past, has read much historical fiction based in the double kingdoms of Egypt, I had only heard the Hittites mentioned in passing, prior to reading this book.
It is a long book at around 560 pages on Kindle, but it is well worth the read. To be honest, I struggled at times with remembering which minor character was which, more a function of their complicated realistic Hittite names, rather than any reflection on the author. At the end of Chapter One I was seriously wondering what I had got myself into and whether I could actually read the full book - it had been a struggle to that point.
I needn't have worried. Janet Morris' writing drew me into the world of the Sun King, his loves, his battles and his family. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book was the thread of mercy and humanity that the author gave the main character. He was a King, he had ultimate power over life and death, and yet he was capable of gentleness, of understanding and of mercy. I had no trouble at all identifying with his dilemmas and his trials.
This was an incredibly well researched, well written, historical novel. I remember thinking on more than one occasion that nothing has really changed in the passing of 3,500 years. The problems faced by Suppiluliumus in ruling Hati are the same problems we face today; common human failings of greed, lust, envy and of course the search for meaning. One thing I really liked about this book was the willingness of the author to tackle major moral issues, that we all face, through her principal character and his relationships.
You can check out Janet Morris here: http://tinyurl.com/gu3nzdu
What this talented author did was to taken the famous J'Accuse letter of Emile Zola's to the President of France, in the late nineteenth century and weave a fictional account of his life during this period. This book is impressively accurate in the details that surround the libel case faced by Zola when he had the temerity to accuse the powerful French Army of a cover-up. The author has gathered her facts well and wound them around the tale of a bystander, a friend of Zola's, who watches his friend commit political and professional suicide simply because he is not prepared to stand by and watch an innocent man be incarcerated for a treason he did not commit.
I think more important than the tale of Zola's brave stand against anti-semitism in France and the entrenched powers that be that conspired to cover up the truth, are the big questions that are raised in the book; The rights of the individual to a fair trial, the importance of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. This is truly is a wonderful read and I continuously had to remind myself that this was essentially fiction, so accurate was the historical detail. A real credit to Mahurin.
Check out Paulette Mahurin here: http://tinyurl.com/z8rdulg
I do love historical novels at the best of times, but this one was definitely something special. Petken's attention to detail and clear understanding and knowledge of the period and the practices drew me in to a feudal world of Dukes, Viceroys and of course the ubiquitous Inquisitor, and rewarded me with a touching, at times harrowing, but always enjoyable read.
This book focuses on the dilemma faced by the ordinary soldier (applicable throughout all of history, no doubt), when confronted with an order from his superiors that he feels is morally wrong, in fact illegal. What does he do? You'll have to read the book to find that out, but truly it is an enjoyable and fascinating read.
I loved the characters in this book and I especially loved the way Petken posed the moral dilemmas and then satisfactorily answered them through the actions of the characters.
A highlight for me was to read and grasp the utter stupidity and futility of the whole idea of The Inquisition, as the Catholic Church sought to rid the land of heretics and especially the Jewish minorities in Spain at the time. It was a fascinating read. The author managed to convey the sheer horror and manipulation of the Inquisition, without resorting to language that was too graphic or horrible.
Check out Jana Petken here: http://tinyurl.com/jqwples
AND THE WINNER IS:
Hmmm...how hard to chose between three such exceptional books. It is with the caveat that all of these books are worth every cent and more you might pay for them, I award the 2015 Grunter for Historic Fiction to Paulette Mahurin and her masterpiece To Live Out Loud. What a wonderful book!
2/ Award for Young Adult Fiction for 2015:
The first nominee is a dark and disturbing story by Carissa Ann Lynch, titled Have You Seen This Girl?
My initial reaction to this book was one of awe. It was a nasty, vicious, and scary tale of a thirteen year old girl, Wendi, kidnapped, drugged, held as a child sex slave and discarded when she was no longer of any use to the traffickers. Told directly through the voice of the main character Wendi, it was personal and very easy to identify with and feel empathy for her. The telling of the story was so realistic that at times I thought I was reading the author's personal memoir. I can think of no greater compliment to Lynch, than to say that.
The twists towards the end of the book were clever and well done - I certainly didn't pick all of them and was surprised and stunned by one of them in particular. Yes, this book deals with some very serious and at times horrific issues, but they are well handled. The writing was brutally honest and didn't try to sugar-coat the reality of the situation. I absolutely loved this book and although it is a young adult novel, I would recommend it for the more mature of the young adults and parents everywhere.
Check out Carissa Ann Lynch here: http://tinyurl.com/hc49ugd
Almost as a contrast to Have You Seen This Girl?, Catori's Worlds is a light and fluffy tale by Cyr that enchants the readers and takes the opportunity to impart some serious issues to its young adult readers. Using the concept of alternative universes and quantum physics the author takes the bullied, slightly different, teen, Catori from her world to one in which she is respected and admired for the very same differences she is bullied for in her home world.
The author uses the story to consistently press the idea of caring for our environment and the importance of plants and the natural world to our existence here on earth. Catori learns much in her visit to this alternate universe, but most importantly she learns about true friendship and about herself - how strong and how unique she really is. This isn't a preachy novel - it's simply a good story wound around some very sound environmental precepts.
I would think all young adults would find something to identify with in the author's words, but even us oldies can take some useful lessons and thoughts out of it. At the end of the day, that's exactly what we want from a novel - a good story and a lesson that makes us thinks about our own lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed Catori's Worlds and I look forward to reading the next episode of Catori's adventures.
Check out Murielle Cyr here: http://tinyurl.com/z4tx4th
AND THE WINNER IS:
The Grunter for the best Young Adult Fiction I have read in 2015 goes to Have You Seen This Girl? by Carissa Ann Lynch. Young Adults may find it hard to read at times, but it is a stunningly real depiction of what can lay out there in wait for young people who are careless with their safety.
3/ Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy
The first nominee in this section is Descent into Mayhem by Bruno Goncalves.
This book is pure Science Fiction, set far into the future on a distant planet called, Capicua. We initially meet some of the invading force on the planet, who are scouting out the surface for resources. The perspective then switches to a young, farm boy who has dreams of escaping his family and becoming a suit driver in the army. These enormous mechanised suits are one of the main ways in which war is waged in Goncalves' future world.
The young man goes through the typical basic training of any new recruit, which clearly hasn't changed much over the centuries, being subjected to physical, verbal and psychological abuse by the trainers in order to produce a fighting man or woman.
Before their training is complete however they are thrust into the heart of the battle against the invading army. There are a couple of little twists here, which I won't reveal, but they did make me smile and also showed off the author's clever thinking.
I think this was Goncalves first novel and as such he has done an excellent job with it. I have no doubt if you enjoyed his futuristic world, you will be clamouring for the next book in the Capicua Chronicles. An excellent read, especially if you like Science Fiction, but you still like human emotions and human frailties.
You can check out Bruno Goncalves here: http://tinyurl.com/z585bg6
The Azure Key is a good substantial read. Now, I'm a bit old-school and I don't get all the many and varied genres that get tossed around these days. It seems like there is a genre to cover just about every book ever written. I'd never even heard of "steampunk" or indeed "dystopian" until I started reading Indie Authors. This was billed as a "space opera"! What exactly is that? Jesus Christ Superstar meets Star Wars? Look, you can call it what you will, but The Azure Key is plain and simple, in my mind, a Science Fiction story. That have been said, it is an EXCELLENT science fiction story.
I used to read a lot of Science Fiction as a kid; especially Heinlen, Arthur C Clarke, and Herbert, but as an adult I've tended to veer away from the world of space and the cosmos - much to my own detriment I suspect. The Azure Key is a good, old fashioned tale of three people caught up in a set of circumstances beyond their control. The "hero" for the want of a better word, Liam Kidd, is your typical hard-man mercenary (freelancer), with a heart of gold and a true sense of justice, despite his tough-guy demeanor. The "love interest", Saturn Vera is, of course, beautiful, but as tough and fiery as Liam, as she well displays early on in the story. Together with Ju-Long, the trio escape an attack on the asteroid mine they are working on by shooting through a wormhole to the other side of the galaxy where humans have "never" been before.
What follows is a series of adventures and battles as the trio try to survive and find a way back. It seems the only way out of their predicament is to secure the elusive Azure Key. In attempting to do this they discover a lot about themselves, about the aliens and about the inhabited cosmos that they did not even know existed. The little twist at the end sets the scene for what no doubt will be enthralling sequels.
This was a great story, well told and kept me enthralled every second of the way. What it is, is a damn good read and I would urge everyone who likes a good science fiction yarn to go and get a copy.
You can check out Trevor Schmidt here: http://tinyurl.com/jbtafxh
AND THE WINNER IS:
By a short neck; The Corsair Uprising (The Azure Key) by Trevor Schmidt.
Well, that's our Grunters for today.
Be sure to tune into the next and final exciting installment of the 2015 Grunter Awards; same bat-time, same bat-channel, where we will hand out the Best Action/Adventure Award and Best Horror/Chaos/Mayhem Award.
Plus of course, the BIGGIE!
What indie book will take away the coveted Big Grunter! - The Book of the Year Award for 2015!
Don't miss it!
Till then; thanks for reading and have a wonderful peace-filled day!
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