Ana: Hello, I’m Ana
Thea: And I’m Thea
Ana & Thea: And we are…[Wyld Stallyns] BOOK SMUGGLERS!!!!!!!
*play facemelting riffs on air guitars*
We’ve brought you some of our favorite authors with their reflections on 2010 and plans for 2011… We’ve brought your some of our favorite bloggers with their own wonderful ‘best of’ lists… But now it’s finally time to get our own hands dirty! We have scoured our personal libraries, gone through all our reviews for the year, and we are happy to report that we finally have our final picks ready to go.
We Smugglers are proud to present you with our Most Excellent Books of 2010!
Thea’s Most Excellent List:
Overall, 2010 was a good year. Not a totally rockin’, shirt-coming-off-‘cuz-I’ve-partied-so-hard-year for me, but I did find some truly jaw-droppingly awesome books. In 2010 I reviewed 134 titles (less than last year, but not bad considering I went through crappy LSAT prep and completed my first semester of grad school!). I didn’t really experience too many reading habit shifts from last year, other than meeting my goal of reading more science fiction (yeah, bitches!) with a healthy dose of YA, some horror, and a ton of fantasy (naturally). Reflecting on my top 10 books of 2010, the theme seems to be “The Year of the Dude” because a whopping SIX of my top picks are – you guessed it – written by male authors. Without further ado, here are my top 10 books published in 2010!
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey is the first title I’ve had the pleasure of reading from Jasper Fforde, and holy freaking crap, Batman! It was awesome. A post-apocalyptic/dystopian tale of a different color (Oho! The puns return!), Shades of Grey is all kinds of absurdist wonderful, with a tinge of magic, science fiction, and weird.
Lies by Michael Grant
The Gone series from Michael Grant is consistently awesome, and each year I eagerly look forward to the next installment. In Lies, our supposed “hero” characters are forced into some really crappy scenarios (and react like actual, fallible teens), plus the gaiaphage returns (EEP!), and we get a glimpse of what is going on outside of the Perdido Beach bubble. I am madly in love with this series – it keeps getting better. I am simultaneously ecstatic and terrified at what the future has in store for these poor kids, because let me tell you folks, this is one bleak, dark series.
Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
This duology, previously published in the UK, is another dystopian/post-apocalyptic book, but with an innovative fantastical twist. Though the books had their infuriating moments, both Incarceron and Sapphique were bonafide page-turners – and I think the duology ended PERFECTLY. (And yes, I know I’m kind of cheating by lumping these two books together as a single pick, but so what this is SMUGGLIVUS, dammit, and I’m allowed this one cheat!)
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Hey look, it’s another post-apocalyptic/dystopian title on Thea’s list! How did that get there? (Oh, I crack myself up) Ok, all cards on the table: I loved Ship Breaker oodles more than Bacigalupi’s multiple award-winning adult title The Windup Girl. This vision of the future gulf coast, set in a world whose oil has run out and ravaged by severe climate change and extreme flooding, is harrowing stuff. Paolo Bacigalupi doesn’t pull any punches with his YA title (it is bleak as hell), while writing a terrifying, white-knuckle story. I cannot wait for more.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
The third and final book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy was one of the best trilogy endings I’ve ever read. Sorry, Mockingjay, you were good and all, but Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy was so much better. The series consistently raised the bar, ending in a most heartwrenching – but still fitting, believable and well-written (not to mention hopeful) – conclusion.
WE by John Dickinson
This was the first book I have read by John Dickinson, and it completely took me by surprise. A futuristic science fiction novel about an outpost on Triton (the icy moon of Neptune), disconnected from the ominous World Ear, WE is a dystopian novel of a much larger, colder scope. I cannot wait to read more from the talented Mr. Dickinson.
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Last year’s The Monstrumologist, a YA horror novel with surprisingly nuanced characters, was fantastic, so I was eager to jump into the second novel. This year, The Curse of the Wendigo totally won me over. Blending Native American folklore with the tension-fraught, conflicted relationship between young Will Henry and his guardian Monstrumologist…well, it’s awesome. The series is old-school in a very Jules Verne kind of way, and I love it. I cannot wait for the next book!
Prospero in Hell by L. Jagi Lamplighter
The second book in the Prospero’s Daughter series (and with such a preeeeetty cover), this book ups the stakes of Prospero Lost and reunites the entire Prospero family – for better or for worse. Bending current notions of urban or contemporary fantasy with a wonderful literary bend (alluding to Shakespeare, Dante, Faust, etc), this is another must buy series. And this book ends with a maddening cliffhanger. Need. Next. Book.
Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine
The tenth and FINAL book in the Weather Warden series, it took me a long time to work up the emotional strength to crack open this book and finish Joanne Baldwin’s insane adventure. Like all its predecessors, this is a high-tension, white-knuckle read, fraught with danger and with the fate of humanity and the djinn and life as we know it at stake. And, Total Eclipse ends the series *perfectly* – it couldn’t have happened any other way. And finally, for now, Jo, David and Lewis can rest. (I am SO freaking glad that Cassiel’s story is still ongoing with the Outcast Season books, though. I don’t think I could handle a full Weather Warden withdrawl.)
The Passage by Justin Cronin
My favorite book of 2010 is also one of the most hyped books of the year: Justin Cronin’s truly epic, door-stopping, apocalyptic novel, The Passage. I don’t think I have the words to express how much I loved this book, from it’s centuries-spanning scope to the terror of the vampiric virus and the near extinction of humanity. This is gonna be one badass Ridley Scott movie someday.
So there you have my top 10: 5 YA titles (4 are dystopian/post-apocalyptic books of the speculative fiction variety, the remaining title is horror), 1 pure science fiction title (dystopian), 1 pure horror title (apocalyptic/dystopian), 1 speculative fiction title (post-apocalyptic/dystopian), 1 contemporary fantasy, and 1 straight-up urban fantasy. Yowza. You could say I have a thing for bleak, horrific futures. Or something.
Ana’s Most Excellent List:
2010 was by far the best reading year for me since we started the blog – and possibly even, the best reading year EVER. No kidding. I read 134 in total, one more than last year, the same as the year before.
It was the year I completely, irrevocably fell in love with YA books (all of its genres but mostly, Contemporary YA) and also the year of trying to put a lot of thought into what which books I read, hence I deliberately read more PoC and LGBT books. Out of the 134 books I read 89 were written by women, and this is something I am proud of as well. On the down side, I read fewer Romance novels and I would love to say that I want to read more Romance next year, but in all honesty I don’t think that’s going to happen. I also read fewer short stories and graphic novels than I intended to. My goal for 2011: read more oldies; continue with the YA love but read even more PoC and LGBT novels.
Bearing all that in mind, my top 10 list was very difficult to come up with, only because there were so many TOTALLY AWESOME BOOKS this year. But here is my top 10, in no particular order:
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
I know I JUST said that it was very hard to pick my top 10. I know I JUST said that the list is in no particular order. These do not apply to Bleeding Violet, the only book I have known since I read it all the way back in January that it would be here but not only that: it remains my favourite read of 2010, period. It is mind-blowing awesome with a crazy, surreal, ubber violent, dark plot and setting but with some of the most realistic, sympathetic (yet totally crazy) characters I have ever read. This may not be a perfect book for everyone, but is certainly, a perfect book for me.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
This book blew my mind away: from the get go I fell in love with the lovely writing and with its narrative that kept going back and forth as the main character remembered something. Its plot is a complex mixture of politics and romance and it includes entrapped GODS, religion, mythology, gender and race issues and OMFG: Nahadoth. Enough said.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This book surprised the hell out of me: I did not expect to love it as much as I did, nor did I expect to still remember it so vividly so many months after first reading it. It is a poetic exploration of grief and of sadness that is relentlessly sombre and recklessly happy at the same time. Plus it has one of the best YA romance I read this year between the protagonist Lennie and the adorably dorky Joe Fontaine (le sigh). This is what teen romance should be about: two people falling in love with each other, little by little as they actually get to know one another.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
It’s book 4 in the EXCELLENT-EXTRAORDINARY-AMAZING Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner. Need I say more??? (If you think I do, it’s because you have not read this series yet in which case, YOU MUST GET IT PRONTO).
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
This is a slow burner of a book. I read it back in April and loved it well enough but in the ensuing months I grew fonder and fonder of this book until it was settled that it was indeed a top 10 of the year for its original setting, unique mixture of Maori AND Greek mythologies (seriously, the ending is so utterly cool) and maybe my favourite heroine of the year: Ellie Spencer.
The Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan
Ok, so technically, we are talking about three books, but it’s really ONE story, right? I am not cheating, I swear. This trilogy has everything I love about Fantasy: great world-building, incredible setting which is almost-like-but-not-really medieval Europe, political intrigue, mysteries and above all, characters so loveable and great and who drive the plot (and not the other way around) and who made me root for their happiness as though they were real people – scrap that, for the amount of hours that I read (and re-read) this series, Razi, Wynter and Christopher WERE real to me.
The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
This is the sequel to The Demon’s Lexicon (which made my top 10 last year) and it is equally as awesome if not more. Another book that is all about the characters and their motivations. And about love: about loving who you shouldn’t love, people being worthy of being loved even when they don’t think they are or the seemly endless capacity for sibling love that some of the characters have. I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, The Demon’s Surrender.Also, let it be noted: Team Alan for the win.
The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
I only gave three books a perfect 10 this year. This is one of them. It’s another surprise because I had zero expectations about it and had never read any of Moriarty’s books before (if I had, it would come as no surprise at all that this book is awesome, because all of her books are awesome, I glommed them like there was no tomorrow). It is an epistolary novel that makes fun of Gothic novels and it has exclamation marks in excess, ghosts (or has it?), fantastic girls that have this amazing friendship, an engaging plot that falls into place perfectly in the end and it is all so good, and awesome and I loved this book so MUCH MY HEAD NEARLY EXPLODED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know, gothically speaking.
The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
The Space Between Trees is hauntingly beautiful and evocative. I was enraptured by it, by lines and paragraphs that were so wonderfully lyrical. I said in my review that the problem with “lyrical” is that often that quality may be hiding emptiness of plot, of character, of story: not here. It’s about a main character who is painfully weird and lonely trying to cope with the world, the death of someone she knows and trying to find a place for her so that she is not longer an empty space. This book is the book I would choose to show to those naysayers who say that YA literature is puerile and unsophisticated. HA.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
This is one of the saddest books I have ever read: it deals with some pretty heavy stuff like neglect, child abuse, violence, use of drugs and it made me sob my heart out. It also made me think beyond the book: about real life, and real kids going through shit like the characters Vera and Charlie go through, about being silent, about ignorance and poverty and horrible circumstances and what it can do to people. The most incredible thing is that the book also made me laugh a lot and even through my tears, and my broken heart there was hope. That’s an incredible feat – I highly, highly recommend this book and it would not surprise me if it won bucket loads of awards in the near future.
And that’s it! 2 Adult Fantasy and 8 YA (4 of them Fantasy, 4 of them Contemporary). I think this list reflects beautifully the reading place I am right now. But I did say it wasn’t easy, didn’t I? That’s because I read even more awesome books this year.
Thea’s Most Honorable Mentions:
There were a number of awesome books I read this year that didn’t make the cut, but still deserve a shout-out, including:
1. Girl with the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron (one of my first contemporary YA titles, and holy moly it was GREAT)
2. Veracity by Laura Bynum (a strong dystopian novel) (YES another one shutupdon’tjudgeme)
3. The Enemy by Charlie Higson (kids + parents turn into zombies + apocalypse = badassness)
4. Spellwright by Blake Charlton (traditional, straight-up fantasy in a pretty cool new world and magic system)
5. Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin’s series is consistently strong – I mean, you can’t go wrong with Jacqueline Carey)
6. Silver Bourne by Patricia Briggs (Mercy Rules)
7. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (although his characters are too good to be true, this is still a beautiful start to an epic new series – I just hope he’s able to incorporate some grit into his next book)
8. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (this one took me completely by surprise, given the terrible cover, and swept me off my feet – a very close contender for my top 10)
9. Dark Life by Kat Falls (super-hyped, yes, but it was SO worth it; another serious contender that almost made my top 10)
10. I am Not a Serial Killer & Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (Dexter copycat? No way. This is one of the most complex characters I have had the pleasure of reading all year)
11. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels = WIN)
12. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane (this debut from friend and fellow blogger Carolyn “CJ” Crane rocked my world – I PROMISE I’ll get to Double Cross soon)
13. The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (traditional fantasy, done very well for a YA audience)
Ana’s Most Honorable Mentions:
1. Prospero in Hell by L. Jagi Lamplighter (this one very VERY nearly made the cut, at the awesome rate that this series is going I would not be surprised if the final book in the trilogy made the cut next year), 8 (Fantasy)
2. Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause, 9 (Graphic Novel)
3. Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Flogio, 8 (Graphic Novel)
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, 8 (Fantasy)
5. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson, 8 (YA, Contemporary)
6. The Girl with Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron, 8 (YA, Contemporary)
7 & 8. A Local Habitation and An Artificial Night by Seanan Mcguire, 8 (UF)
9 & 10. Mind Games and Double Cross by Carolyn Crane, 8 (UF)
11. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman, 8 (Fantasy)
12. City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton, 8 (Fantasy)
13. White Cat by Holly Black, 8 (YA, Fantasy)
14. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, 9 (YA, Steampunk)
15. In For a Penny by Rose Lerner, 8 (Romance, Historical)
16. Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook, 8 (Novella, PNR)
17. Demon Blood by Meljean Brook, 8 (PNR)
18. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, 7 (Horror)
Thea’s Most Excellent Oldies:
You didn’t think the lists were OVER did you!? Both Ana and myself have read a ton of books published prior to 2010, so we had to have a section devoted to them. Naturally. Here’s my list of favorites:
1. Hero by Perry Moore
2. Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
3. Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter
4. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
5. Titan by Stephen Baxter
6. POD by Stephen Wallenfels
7. Elfland by Freda Warrington
8. The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner
Ana’s Most Excellent Oldies:
1. Behold The Man by Michael Moorcock, 10 (Science Fiction)
2. The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty, 9 (YA, Contemporary)
3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, 8 (YA, Contemporary)
4. Freak Show by James St James, 8 (YA, LGBT)
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, 8 (YA, Contemporary, PoC)
6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, 9 (YA, Contemporary)
7. Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen, 8 (Romance, Historical, LGBT)
8. Gentlemen by Michael Northrop, 8 (YA, Contemporary)
9. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, 8 (YA, Science Fiction)
10. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, 8 (YA, Fantasy)
Since there’s some overlap, here are a few books we are BOTH dying to get our grubby, smuggling paws on:
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (please God let it be this year!): the sequel to the AWESOME The Name of the Wind which we all have been waiting for since we don’t even know how long.
Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr: the fifth – and final – book in the Wicked Lovely series. We want this so much it hurts.
Graveminder by Melissa Marr: since we are talking about Melissa Marr, this is her first foray into Adult fiction and we can’t freaking wait.
Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter : The final book in the trilogy, the second book ended with a horrible cliffhanger and we are BOTH dying to see how it all ends!
With that out of the way, here go our individual lists!
Eona by Alison Goodman: Good God, woman, it has been two years! I need my next fix of Eona already.
Namaah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey: Duh. The conclusion of Moirin’s tale has me all kinds of excited.
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews & River Marked by Patricia Briggs: Two of my favorite ongoing Urban Fantasy series’. No explanation necessary, as these heroines rock.
Unseen by Rachel Caine: Now that Jo’s story has come to completion, I will be needing Cassiel in my life more than ever.
Deathless & The Folded World by Cat Valente: The lovely Cat Valente is quickly running up the ranks as one of my favorite authors, and both of these books sound fantastic.
Deadline by Mira Grant: The second book in Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire)’s excellent apocalyptic Newsflesh trilogy.
I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells: This series took me by surprise, and with a cliffhanger like the one at the end of Mr. Monster, I am ravenous for the next book. (Seriously, if you haven’t read these yet, you need to)
The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson: I was enchanted with The Native Star and cannot wait to return for more Stanton and Emily.
The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey: The next Monstrumologist book cannot come soon enough, so far as I’m concerned.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: It has been ENTIRELY too long since Fire. More Cashore, please!
Plague by Michael Grant: Again, no brainer. I wish I could get TWO of these books each year, I love them so.
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan: Although The Dead-Tossed Waves wasn’t as good as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this is a series I love very much, and I am excited for the final book.
Of course, I am also excited for Brandon Sanderson’s new books (like Ana), any other continuations from the series’ I’ve mentioned above, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something but…c’est la vie! This post is long enough!
Of course, no list would be complete without my most anticipated reads of 2011. Highest on my list are:
The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan: The final book in the trilogy. Alan better survive – that’s all I am saying.
The Book of Transformations by Mark Charan Newton: having loved City of Ruin I can’t wait to see what MCN comes up with next plus this book features a transgendered character and I am really curious to see how it all plays out.
Demon Marked by Meljean Brook: because I LOVE this series so much and because after this one, we are one book away from Michael’s book.
Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh : anyone who reads this series has been waiting for Hawke’s story, since book 1. This is IT, folks, the time is NOW. Bring it on the hotness!
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: I really enjoyed this author’s first foray into YA (Shadow Speaker) and want to read this one as well – plus it is set in Nigeria.
One Seriously Messed-Up Week in the Otherwise Mundane and Uneventful Life of Jack Samsonite by Tom Clempson: Because of its title and yes, I am shallow like that.
Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres: I read a collection of short stories by this author and loved the writing style. I am curious to see how she gets along writing a YA novel. It sounds good too.
Red Glove by Holly Black: White Cat was so good, I can’t wait for the sequel.
Late Eclipses by Seanan Mcguire – Please please OH LORD OF THE BOOKS ALMIGHTY, let this be the book where Toby and Tybalt hook up. Pretty pleaaaaaase.
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld:the final act in the amazing Leviathan series
Plus: any new Brandon Sanderson book (non Wheel of Time); any new Julia Quinn, Julie James, Loretta Chase, the next Iron Seas novel by Meljean Brook, the next one in the Felix Gilman’s duology after The Half Made World, the next book in the Inheritance Trilogy by N K Jemisin, anything that Jaclyn Moriarty and John Green seem fit to write (even their laundry lists), the next Scarlett book by Maureen Johnson and many more which I am sure I am forgetting!
And with that we, your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers, bid you so long, farewell, au revoir, see you in 2011!
And be Excellent to Each Other, dudes!