It's been an incredible year, stuffed full of reading goodness and it's been utter hell deciding what to choose for my Best of 09.
But it's been done and I'm listing them in no particular order. Twelve books were chosen, one from each month of my reviews.
- 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison: I had the chance to read this before a lot of other people and I fell in love with Michelle's writing. I remember nagging S&S for an interview with this debut author whom I have subsequently met. As we speak, her second novel: 13 Curses is lying next to me to finish. She also won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize.
- Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd: I love this book so much. I've not read much epic fantasy this year which I'm very sad about but I can say - hand on heart - that Stormcaller blew me away with its plotting, character development and world-building. Tom Lloyd is an unsung genius and I'd urge you to pick up a copy and fall in love with his writing.
- Thicker than Water by Mike Carey: Wow. As a big fan of Mike Carey and his Felix Castor novels I expected big things from him in Thicker than Water but holy smokes, I did not expect this. Mike took us to places dark and awful and he left us gasping on the precipice as we realised what Fix has to do in the follow-up novels. This was when I realised for reals what a master Mike is when it comes to plotting. And driving his readers nuts.
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman: I think I went through about 2 boxes of Cleanex reading this elegantly written novel about a girl who has the decision before her as she lies broken and torn in a coma: does she stay here with her friends and her grandparents or does she go, move on, to be with her parents and brother in the afterlife? Beautifully written, with style and grace, I felt flattened and uplifted at the same time reading this one. I'd recommend it heartily.
- The Tiger Warrior by David Gibbins: I am a big fan of Mr. G - he writes cracking adventure thrillers and I've been honoured to be included in some email correspondence with him. I've read all his other books, even before I started blogging - yes, I know, back in the dark ages - but this one represents a turning point in his writing and my reading, I think. The novel is a lot more personal, focussing heavily on relationships, friendships and familial responsibility. Not a lot of action thrillers can pull off good character development but The Tiger Warrior did that in spades. If you've not read this genre before, you can do worse than start here.
- Black & White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge: These two very talented authors got to do something most of us only dream about: write a superhero novel AND pull it off successfully. This copy refers to the copy published over in the States but wait! the UK copy will soon be published here so you get to support them directly. Well written, with interesting main characters, you get drawn into the two MC's quest for the truth and realise that there never is just black or white.
- The Fire King by Marjorie M Liu: ha! Tiny book that blew my socks off. Who knew I could fall so heavily for an author through her writing? Intense and sexy does not begin to describe The Fire King. Set in farflung places the author takes us on a journey so unthinkable it leaves you reeling. I loved it. In fact, it's probably going to turn into one of those books you pick up to read and re-read because it's just so damn good.
- Girl from Mars by Julie Cohen: this was my first ever Little Black Dress book and I have to say, I had reservations! I am not really a girly girl book reader but this pocket-sized book with the cute alien on the front swept me off my feet, showing me that I should for once and all shove my preconceptions in my pocket and just get reading already! Wonderfully quirky, set in the world of graphic novels and other creative types, GFM taught me about friendships and how no matter what, you should always stay true to your dreams. Definitely a big favourite!
- Troubadour by Mary Hoffman: Ms. Hoffman has this remarkable talent as a writer. She writes beautifully, with strong imagery and subtlety. I loved Troubadour so much I gave my hardback copy away to share with the world. Dealing with the Cathars in medieval times, their persecution and the atrocities committed against them, other French citizens and Jews, this slender novel packs a huge punch and had me sniffling into a hanky several times, because of its poignancy.
- Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney: who said that a) children's books can't be scary and b) written in a very mature way? Mr. Delaney blew my socks off with Spook's Apprentice. What struck me most - and this I told his publicity person - is how adult the book seemed to me. There was no molly coddling the main character - the horror of his new position as the Spook's Apprentice was this slow dawning realisation which was handled very well. I loved it so much I got all the other books too and I'm looking forward to working my way through them.
- Hattori Hachi by Jane Prowse: here is the female role model all girls need. Hachi kicks butt and takes no prisoners. I loved her development as a character and the practically insurmountable odds that she overcomes to save the day - but there is always a price. This is Karate Kid for a new generation but so much cooler than Daniel-san could ever have hoped to be.
- The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh - I feel a bit sneaky adding this one in as it's not been released yet but hey, this is my list, okay? Fantastically atmospheric and creepy, The Crowfield Curse asks the question: what would you do if you knew where an angel was buried? Mixing religion, fairies and superstition, this novel has to be read in winter time. In fact, it just has to be read as it is that bloody good!
These are my twelve topmost favourite books of 2009 as reviewed on MFB - I've not looked at reviews I've done elsewhere but as an aside, I'd like to mention another title I thoroughly enjoyed called Age of Ra by James Lovegrove - a grand book, military sci fi for people (like me) who don't usually do military sci-fi.
I think I have been quite lucky this year in that the majority of books I've read have been good / I've been able to see where the author was going and "get" what they were doing. There were some books I let slide after a while because they didn't hold my interest but these are still on my shelves. I'll give these another go to see if I can get into them, if not, off they go to charity shops!
Something I've thought about before but what I've confirmed and discovered in 2009 is that I'm very much a seasonal reader. Darker books for the darker months and lighter books for spring and summer. Is that odd? Do other people do this too?
What does 2010 hold for MFB?
I have no idea. No, I'm kidding. Of course I've got an inkling. I'd like to run more competitions, hopefully more international comps too. I want to concentrate on various genres this year, specifically fantasy as I feel I'm far behind with what's come out this year and looking at catalogues for 2010 we are due a bumper crop of some really good new titles. I'm also going to challenge myself to read sci-fi. I know, I know - please don't laugh at me openly - but I'm going to try. I also want to tackle more non-fiction, some straight contemporary (and maybe literary) fiction. Of course I'll still be championing kids books - all ages, all genres. I love them and can in all honesty say I can probably set up an entire blog dedicated to kids books on their own. Another big thing for me in 2010 will be: graphic novels. I think both Mark and I are keen to get stuck into more of them. We have quite a few but I suspect there is always space for more. There will be interviews and guest blogs too. Oh and "author of the month" events too, watch this space!
I'm not sure about other bloggers/reviewers but 2010 has already started for me. I've already started reading and reviewing books for the new year and it's an odd thing because it completely screws up your perception of Time. I feel a bit Dr. Who but hopefully with better hair. And yes, as for anyone who has actually been to my house, can testify: we do live in the Tardis. Mark should get a job working for the Jenga factory as NO ONE I've met can pack and stack books like he can.
In Jan/Feb Mark and I will be heading off to South Africa for a bit of a holiday. I'll be meeting up with Dave Brendon from Galaxy Reads to talk books and I'm looking forward to meeting my online buddy. It's going to be grand. And yes, there will be incriminating pictures.
To everyone reading this, to my old mates on here, thank you so much for your continued support. You guys have been amazing. To my new friends I've made this year via the blog and Twitter, I'm so pleased that I've had the chance to do so. Stick around for more stuff from us in 2010.
And if there is one wish I can make (get your hankies out!) for 2010 it is for everyone who reads this blog to put a hand in their pocket and to buy at least one book a month from an independent bookseller - if it's online or on your high street. These guys really need our help. Help them thrive so that they don't lose their income and we have somewhere else to hang out and talk books with people who love books as much as we do.
Farewell to 2009 and hello 2010, you beautiful thing!