Monday, December 6, 2010
Best of 2010
It's been awhile, but I do make it a point to keep reading and to do this. Also, I will keep the blog up in 2011 simply because I missed ya'll and I missed doing this. Now, enough of that...on to the books!!
Here are the Honourable Mentions in no particular order:
A plague sweeps over and destroys millions across the world in 1870 and the years after. It's a plague of vampirism. Death and famine have followed the surviving humans who have been forced to move to the tropics where the vampires cannot survive the heat. The technology of the age comes with them, the steam and iron, and the will to survive at all costs. One hundred and fifty years later the human Adele is Princess of the Empire of Equatoria, the last remnants of the British Empire. She wants an adventure before she must succumb to a life of duty and marriage. Her chief protector is the Greyfriar, a cloaked figure and rebel who fights the vampires from within her empire. Their attraction for one another is immediate and dangerous considering that Adele is to be married. All this along with the looming war between humans and the vampire clans play out with danger everywhere.
The Greyfriar is the first book in Susan and Clay Griffin's Vampire Empire (Am I the only one who finds that fun to say? Vampire Empire?) series and it's a fun ride. Vampires and steampunk? More like Chocolate and peanut butter. Plus, through in the Greyfriar who escaped from the 1930's pulps and you've got yourself a helluva ride. Yes, there are some bumpy parts played out in the love story, but the promise of the longer tale is what's going to keep you coming back.
An Artificial Night - October Daye #3 - Seanan McGuire
Being half-human/half-fae changeling and the only ever knighted is only one of October "Toby" Daye's accomplishments. In An Artificial Night she finds out that someone is stealing children, fae and human alike, and all signs point to Blind Michael, the leader of the Wild Hunt. Toby doesn't have a choice but to track down these children no matter where the road takes her even if it's into Blind Michael's realm. She'll bring them back or die in the attempt especially since her personal Fetch has shown up, Toby's own harbinger of death. If Toby cannot make it out with the children, she'll have to remain forever as part of Blind Michael's Wild Hunt.
Firstly, let me tell you this, don't let the #3 in a series scare you of if you've not read one and two. An Artificial Night can be read entirely as a stand alone and I love it for that. I have read the first two and while it enriches the experience, it isn't necessary. Secondly, this is the best book I've read in the series so far. Ms. McGuire does several things differently here involving plot and structure of the story that really work for me. Finally, I do believe the main character may just be headed for death. Wouldn't that be cool? Where a deus ex machina doesn't come out of the stage wings to save them and a noble death actually occurs? Huh? something to think about. Can't wait til March when book 4 come out.
Gin Blanco aka the Spider, semi-retired assassin, runs Ashland's best (even though it's not in Texas) Bar-B-Que joint, the Pork Pit, and is on a personal mission to kill Mab Monroe. She's the Fire elemental who exterminated Gin's family, but to do this she's going to have to protect her civilian identity. Which means not using her most powerful weapons, her Stone and Ice magics. She also still does favours for people like her vampire friend Roslyn. Roslyn's having trouble with a stalker named Elliot, and Gin knows that she's the only reason Elliot knows about Roslyn. The best course of action, Gin decides, is to take the crazy giant out. Him being one of Mab's henchmen is just a bonus, right? True, he's Mab's most powerful henchmen so it won't be easy, buy Gin's never been one to shy away from a challenge. All this coupled with the fact the her long lost baby sister has come to town make retirement a lot more busy than working ever was.
Ms. Estep had what my Creative Writing teacher used to call PPD, plot, prose and dialogue. All of them are exceptional. Venom had a wonderful plot that left nothing hanging and opened up several new avenues that are sure to be pursued in the next few books. One of which is how Gin is becoming more and more Peter Parker by day (No Daily Bugle, she has the Pork Pit) and Spider-Man (or the Spider) at night. Her prose is spot on, which I think a ton of writers working today could use a refresher course on, but don't get me started. Finally her dialogue is so tight that you can hear Gin in your head without even trying to. I don't think this is only me. I truly do think it should be spoken aloud it so good. I really look forward to where the series is going.
Bayou Moon - The Edge #2 - Ilona Andrews
There's a nine hundred square mile strip of the Edge called the Mire. Tucked between the magical world of the Weird and the non-magical world of the Broken. When Cerise Mar's parent's disappear her clan's rivals, the Sheerilies are the main suspects. With her parents gone this development also casts Cerise into the role of clan leader forcing her to go to war against the Sheerilies. This pairs her with Lord William Sandine, a changeling soldier who's left the Weird behind because of politics. He's been pulled back into service to bring back the rival nation's spymaster. Cerise and William are forced to help one another with their missions once their paths cross and to find a way of working together. To do that they'll have to survive everything the Edge can throw at them.
I've yet to find a world quite like what the Andrews have built in their Edge series. To say it's complex and fascinating is to almost damn it with faint praise. A better more structured and complex plot than it's predecessor, On The Edge, Bayou Moon can be read as a stand alone. That was really important to me for some reason this year, and I think it was because money is so tight for people. I wanted people to be able to find stellar stories without having to have to go out and buy extra books to have a satisfying reading experience. You're welcome (kidding.) No, really if you dig paranormal fantasy and romance Ilona Andrews is one of the greats, and The Edge series is just as rewarding as Kate Daniels.
Now on to the best of the year.....
Afterlight - Dark Ink #1 - Elle Jasper
A local tattooist in the city of Savannah Riley Poe has had her younger brother, Seth, abducted. Not by any local psycho either, but by a cult of vampires. Riley has been brought up by the Dupre family who possess terrifying speed and powers. One of them agrees to help her find her brother. His name is Eli, and he too is a vampire. Not only is he attracted to Riley's striking beauty, but by her one-of-a-kind blood type. Unfortunately for them both, Eli is not the only exsanguinator who craves Riley's blood. To rescue Seth from certain everlasting bloodlust and exploding in sunlight, she will have to face dangers she's never dreamed of.
Ms. Jasper is a really talented writer. I'm unsure if this is her first effort or not. If it is, it's a remarkable effort, rather like Nicole Peeler's Tempest Rising from last year. The story never hits a false note throughout, and the setting of Savannah is almost a character in and of itself. Much like what was done in In the Garden of Good in Evil, Savannah being so rich in history in culture just stands to be noticed and written about in a story, and Ms. Jasper pulls this off fabulously. Everdark - Book Two of The Dark Ink Chronicles should outshine the first if Afterlight is any indication.
Changes - The Dresden Files #12 - Jim Butcher
Just for giggles if you were to look up Wizard in the Chicago yellow pages you'd actually find one, and his name would be Harry Dresden. A long time ago, Harry Dresden loved a woman by the name of Susan Delgado, and then she was attacked by Harry's enemies. The attack left her with the bloodlust of a Red Court vampire, but she refused to give into it, and she had to leave Harry to keep that promise. She fled to South America to be far away from Harry and to fight the Red Court vampires who cursed her, but one of them has discovered a secret that Susan has kept and plans to use it against both Susan and Harry. For Harry to prevail against the forces arrayed against him he'll need to call upon almost every ally he's made, and use every power at his disposal- dark or otherwise. He's not just fighting for himself or his friends or even the world this time...this time Harry's fighting for the baby daughter he never knew he had.
I'm pretty sure that Jim Butcher named this one Changes because Holy Shit couldn't be sold as a face out on shelves because let me tell you, when you put this book down, that's what you're going to say. Although Changes works too because this book changes everything. Not just Harry, but even his supporting characters aren't the same after this one's over. Ever since book three came out and Mr. Butcher pulled the series into a cohesive whole each new title has been a must have for me...even the short stories, but March can't come soon enough when Ghost Story hits the shelves. Oh, umm...yeah, cliffhanger alert. heh.
Succubus Shadows - Georgina Kincaid #5 - Richelle Mead
Georgina Kincaid is a succubus in Seattle. She has quite a number of things that most humans would kill for, but the downside is a steep one...seducing unsuspecting schmucks for their immortal souls. Her day job is in a book store though. Presently, she's having to act like she's visiting where she grew up 2000 years ago, Hell. She's having to help plan her ex-boyfriend, Seth's wedding, and prepare to be a bridesmaid in said wedding. If all that wasn't enough fun, there's another succubus in town, Simone, and she's got her sights set on...you guessed it, Seth. During all of this though there's a a dark presence visiting Georgina's thoughts, pulling her into the dark. She's becoming weaker and weaker beginning to succumb herself. When this finally happens she'll learn who she can and cannot trust, and that she may have been wrong all these years. Maybe Hell isn't the worst place you could spend all of eternity.
You have supernaturals of all kinds in this book, vampires, imps, angels and of course succubi. The flashbacks that Ms. Read weaves in this tale are really well and skillfully done taking you from fourth century Cyprus to fifteenth century Florence to Nazi occupied France in 1942. None of them done are for no reason, but to further help you in your understanding of Gerogina and her motivations. While Succubus Shadows can't be read as a stand alone the series should be read. In my opinion it's Richelle Mead's best.
Memories of Envy - Vampire Memories #3 - Barb Hendee
Eleisha Clevon has a mission to locate all vampires still existing in isolation and to offer them sanctuary at her home in Portland, Oregon, but more importantly to teach them her dream to feed without killing. Unfortunately, there's a vampire as close as Denver named Simone, an eternal flapper made in the roaring 20's who likes to play with her food. She enjoys her games, making her passions grow, stoking the fires inside her before she extinguishes their lives. Eleisha has one partner in her venture named Philip, but Simone sees a kindred soul in him as well. While fighting for Simone will Eleisha lose Philip as well?
The Vampire Memories books are really a great series. Each building upon one another the author working each book together like the most amazing, sturdiest house of cards you've ever seen. With the hints dropped, I cannot wait to see what Ms. Hendee has in store for this out of the blue, take you by the throat, but doesn't drain you to death series.
Silver Borne - Mercy Thompson #5 - Patricia Briggs
My favourite Bavarian mechanic and skinwalker Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson tries to return the Fae book that she had borrowed, but she finds where she borrowed it from closed down. And unfortunately for Mercy this book contains some secret knowledge that the Fae will do anything to keep out of the wrong hands. Kept out of the wrong hands it must be because this book contains huge secrets not just about the Fae, but about the Grey Lords, the leaders of the Fae. If
that isn't enough, Samuel, Mercy's friend since childhood is struggling with his wolf side and she can't tell anyone because if she does under pack law Samuel must die. Can Mercy work out how to get rid of this cursed book, deal with Samuel and salvage her relationship with Adam's pack before it's all too late?
Patty Briggs brings it all to the table each and every novel she does. I'll admit her Mercy book are my favourite, but the Alpha and Omega series are a close second. It's just surprising to me that after five novels that the character is still so fresh and vibrant to me. While some authors, who shall remain nameless, just keep cranking out book after book, and people keep buying two star books, Patty Briggs is a cut above. I'll keep buying them so long as her standards are as high as this. On a side note, Daniel Dos Santos makes the most amazing covers for these books every year he does them and I'd like to thank the collaboration of both he and Ms Briggs for their efforts
The Grimrose Path - Trickster #2 - Rob Thurman
Trixa Iktoma is a trickster; a semi-divine shape shifting entity who is several thousand years old and has an appetite for mischief and destruction. She owns a bar in Las Vegas with another famous Trickster, Loki called Leo nowadays. Trixa gets approched by a demon wanting help. Now generally this would make her piss herself laughing, but Trixa in intrigued because this in no ordinary killer that's snuffing out demons left and right. To stop this she's going to need all of her skill set and maybe a little help from her friends.
These books are fun. Starting with Trick of Light - Trickster #1 and continuing in The Grimrose Path. I do so love the chaos unfolded when trickster gods try to make good. Just look at Neil Gaiman's American Gods or Anasasi Boys if you don't believe me, but Rob Thurman takes that to a different level because there's a sense of justice that pervades here. Not just chaos for chaos sense. Trixa loves her friends and will do whatever it takes to protect them. You can read The Grimrose Path as a stand alone, and you'll only miss some of the finer nuances, but please go out and read it!
The Native Star - Emily Edwards #1 - M.K. Hobson
Meet Emily Edwards, a simple witch living in the small town of Lost Pine, Califonia. It's 1876 at the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas and Emily is trying to avoid being run out of business by a mail-order magic company called Hex. Thinking she can solve all her problems with a love spell, things go from bad to worse. Before Emily can ever try to undo the damage, a magical stone discovered by zombie miners and takes away her powers. Only traveling warlock Dreadnought Stanton, in town for suspicious reasons all his own, can help her. Stanton is the antithesis to the way Emily uses her magic and the way she carries herself, but he convinces her that he is the only person to help. Emily and Stanton set off on a cross country journey to find the mysterious Professor Mirabilis. They hope that he can unlock the stone's power and secrets there by freeing Emily. Pursed by creatures, sorcerers, and flying bio-mechanical animals, Emily and Stanton have a trip fraught with danger, attacked at almost every turn by people who want the Native Star and Emily as well.
The Native Star is an amazing novel with a thrilling mix of fantasy, romance, history and even a dash of steampunk thrown in for flavour. The only question I have is, while knowing that the sequel, The Hidden Goddess comes out in 2011, is this a trilogy, or the first in a longer open ended series? Beyond that, all I can say is pick it up. The Native Star is a wonderful mix of character, plot and setting. M.K Hobson brings it all together like a master chef with so many different ingredients and coming up with an entree that just melts upon your palate.
Alpha - Shifters #6 - Rachel Vincent
The long road traveled ends here for Faythe Sanders. All the questions are answered. Who will she pick, Marc or Jace? Who will take over the Council, Malone or will her father reassume his rightful place? Will there be an all out Shifter war? Will the South Central Pride avenge her brother's death? None of the answers will be easy, but Faythe has sworn to protect her Pride, her Alpha and her Pridemates no matter, and she will. Faythe's heading for the final showdown with her eyes wide open knowing it will change everything and that nothing will ever be the same. Rachel Vincent concludes her Shifters series with Alpha, and she does it with skill of a writer twice her age. Let me warn the reader though, she does rake you over the coals in the process, emotionally speaking, but to have the power to do that is an incredible thing. The surprises and twists and turns just keep on coming in Alpha right up until the very last chapter. Thank you, Ms Vincent for writing the series and thank you as well for ending it on a high note and going out a winner because Alpha does all of those in spades.
Kill the Dead - Sandman Slim #2 - Richard Kadrey
James Stark, half-human/half-angel hybrid and known to the monsters as Sandman Slim has been in a bit of a rut lately. He took his revenge on Mason, the bastard responsible for sending him to Hell, but now he's having trouble figuring out what to do with himself. He's got a part time gig bounty hunting rogue monsters, and he works with the Golden Vigil the angelelic do gooders tied up with Homeland Security, but he's bored. Then Lucifer comes to town, and all that changes. Apparently, they're doing a biopic about the first of the fallen's life from his POV and his needs some body guarding done. During all of this though the city becomes infested with High Plains Drifters, zombies, but what happen when Stark becomes infected and his human side begins to die?
Richard Kadrey is on a very short list of writers that I can use one hand to name that can make me laugh out loud. Just how he describes things and the one liners he tosses out there are hilarious. Imagine if Bogart's Sam Spade came back from Hell as the baddest hitman (I mean Lucifer hires him!) still full of his comments at every turn. Plus, every page that Lucifer is on shines. This isn't a Lucifer that wants to rule the world or steal your soul, he's a funny, witty, charming guy who's done a job since the beginning of time and just wants to go home. Kill the Dead and Kadrey's Sandman Slim cannot be recommended enough by me they are hard-edged, sharp, noir done as well as you can. Not to be missed!
The Iron Duke - The Iron Seas #1 - Meljean Brook
Detective Inspector Wilhelmina 'Mina' Wentworth is summoned when a dead body is discovered on the grounds of the Duke of Anglesey's grounds. Rhys Trahaearn former pirate and now national hero, known as The Iron Duke is used to making whatever he wants his. He intends to make Mina the next on that very short list. Unfortunately for the Duke she has no interest in this, and when she discovers the body's identity she finds a conspiracy that may put the lives of everyone in England in jeopardy. Forced to work together, Mina and Rhys must go through zombie-infested wastelands to find the answers that will save her countrymen, but will she give in to the Iron Duke along the way?
Steampunk, yes it does seem like you can't toss a dead librarian without hitting a new book. The difference is this, this is cyberpunk done well. The failing that I see in a lot of steampunk in getting lost in the minutiae, but Ms. Brook's worldbuilding skill's are on another lever entirely. She brings her A game and her machines and every part that makes it cyberpunk only serve her story. The complexity of her world without every overwhelming the reader is a feat of skill that is envious in the extreme. I was impressed when I read Here There be Monsters from the Burning Up anthology before this, but I had no idea it would lead to this. Let me also point out that as a man, if you can include this much romance n a book and not make me feel uncomfortable nor make me skip ahead a few pages, you're doing something very right. All in all, this was a stellar novel and I cannot wait for the next in the series. Let me leave you with this though, pirates! zombies! Talk about two great tastes tasting great together! Who woulda thought?
Alright folks, there it is for another year. Questions, comments, hints, allegations, vulgarities? Lemme know...you know where the comment box is. Tell me where I went wrong or even maybe where I went right. Love you guys.