Friday, December 31, 2010

MFB Best of 2010 - Liz's Choices

Artist: Andre Martins de Barros
We've all had a great year on MFB what with books bought and books received from various publishers.  It's really difficult looking back over the 12 months to decide which favourite to choose, where in some instances it seems glaringly obvious.

I'd also like to point out that the MFB 2010 favourites don't necessarily have to be from 2010, just reviewed during this year.

Books that have stood out for me this year are:

Jeremy de Quidt's The Toymaker - a dark eerie fairy tale set in an unknown European country just drips menace and scariness.  It was a great read for January this year when things were pretty dark and grim.

Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse - a contemporary novel set in Vegas with a foul mouthed heroine who has two people she cares about in the world: her dad and her twin brother and nothing is going to stop her from tracking down her dad, even if it means robbing every sweet shop in Vegas and dragging her brother with her into a life of crime.

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt - a sweet original contemporary fantasy about a young girl who makes a wish, discovers that wishes do come true, much to her surprise.  The writing is excellent and the story is sweet and gutsy and Desi is a fantastic heroine.

I loved The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork and can't recommend this enough to readers who are looking for something completely different.  It follows the story of Pancho as he's trying to come to terms with death, his sister's death especially and the fact that he has sworn an oath to find her killer.  It also deals with a boy he meets at the local orphanage called DQ who is busy dying and the strange humourous angry friendship he strikes up with Pancho.

Michael Ridpath's Where the Shadows Lie really rocked my world. It's not just the quality of the author's writing which verges on literary crime fiction, it is also the plotting and the overall storytelling and the story itself.  A lost manuscript and the lengths people would go to to either hide it, steal it or reveal it to the world is just fantastic.  Set in Iceland with its eerie landscapes it genuinely turned me into a fan of Mr. Ridpath.

Linda Strachan's Dead Boy Talking really took me by surprise.  Told from the dying boy's point of view, the novel does not shy away from being brutal and honest about knife crime.  It's gripping and thoughtful and told within a short space of time, we invest so much in the character and his situation that the ending comes too soon, almost abruptly.  A clever novel written for teens and adults and one to make us think.

Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John is my first ever novel I've read by Ms. St John and she really swept me off my feet.  A charming nostalgic story set in St Ives with a main character called Laura who fancies herself a bit of a detective, the story is deceptively layered and clever and one I'd go out of my way to recommend to younger readers.

My first ever Diana Wynne-Jones novel, Enchanted Glass took me ages to get into and then once I did I couldn't stop raving about it. It really took me by surprise, sneaking up on me.  Richly rewarding it is a story told by a consummate storyteller of great skill - it makes you feel all glowy and happy inside.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver.  I could write an ode to this book - mostly it would read: how the heck did you manage to freak me out that much? It was just snow, for heaven's sake! Oh and darkness. Let's not forget the encroaching darkness.  Wonderfully creepy Dark Matter deserves to be on the list of several of the 2010's best of / favourites lists.  It is horror at its best.

Mezolith by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank has to be one of my favourite graphic novels of all time.  The artwork is sublime and the story of Poika as he grows up in his tribe where superstition and the supernatural are part and parcel of hunting and gathering is rich with lore and archetypes.

I'd like to conclude withThe Painted Boy by Charles de Lint - packed full of mythology and some of CDL's best writing, this story makes me want to pack my bag and travel to the States to go walk around the desert and howl with coyotes.  It's fresh writing from the man who started the urban fantasy trend and what's more is it is the perfect cross-over novel to be enjoyed by readers of YA and readers of adult urban fantasy who want more mythology and lore than sparkly vampires.

Resolutions for 2011:

Well, MFB have joined the British Books challenge as put together by her fabness The Bookette.  I know we are all incredibly excited about this prospect. I know that we will EASILY make at least 50 Brit Books next year.  (Watch me fall flat on my face with that brag!)

Personally I am still on my kick to keep on reading science fiction.  Thanks to John Berlyne and SFREVU as well as Gollancz publishers, that's happened for me in 2010.  I've learned to love new authors (Ian McDonald and Stephen Baxter) in this field and I'm tentatively thinking that maybe my brain didn't get fried reading Asimov at too young an age.

I also want to get to reading some series books that I've neglected these past few years:

- Harry Dresden Books by Jim Butcher.  Having read up to around book 4 or 5, I suspect I may have to reread them all from scratch, for completeness sake, of course.
- Philip Reeve's books, starting with the Mortal Engines sequence
- Finish my my Skulduggery Pleasant books
- Read more Spooks books by Joseph Delaney
- Lord of the Rings - read all the books, including The Hobbit (feel my pain)

I also want to make sure I read more crime and thrillers as I genuinely do love these genres.  Also MORE fantasy.  These are things that are my true loves, yet I feel as if I've not read enough of them in 2010.

Reflections of 2010:

We've been busy this year - a lot of publisher and blogging events, cons and author meet-ups and book launches.  Needless to say it is an amazing experience to realise that we are taken seriously by the publishing industry, receiving invites to attend launches and being asked for opinions about various things.  And of course receiving exclusive content to share online is so superb.  We were spoiled rotten.

Mark and I would like to say thanks to Sarah (essjay) for joining the team.  Holy smokes, without this girl MFB would be a lot poorer.  She stepped in with her love of the YA genre and took stacks of reading off my hands.  I've watched her grow as a reviewer and I am incredibly proud and very grateful to her for being there and for keeping me (personally) sane when sometimes I wanted to run and hide.

As for Mark - well, he's my writing and reading buddy.  He's read a shedload of Warhammer and horror for MFB this year and I'm hoping he'll continue doing that in 2011.  Also more commercial fantasy.  I know he's very excited about me reading Lord of the Rings.

And Gav asking to join MFB was a big surprise.  It's going to be great as I suspect that 2011 will see him throwing his weight into reviewing everything he can lay his grubby little paws on, including crime and a few literary books.

In other words, MFB had a fantastic 2010 which means that 2011 is going to work extra hard to surpass it.  But something tells me that it will happen as we have strong dedicated team.

Lastly, a big thanks to all of our readers, new and old for sticking it out with us, for reading our blog posts, for commenting and entering our competitions.  It means a helluva lot and you guys rock.

Here's to a fab 2010 and here's looking forward to an even more fab 2011!


Essjay said...

Aw, thanks *sniffle*, honestly - it's a real pleasure :-)

Unknown said...

Fantastic list of books there. Very Tempting! ;)

Hope all at MFB have a fantastic 2011!

Carmen Wing said...

Oh dear - having only recently discovered your blog I had missed a lot of these reviews. My wishlist that had been lessened by Christmas is now groaning again! Thanks :P

Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

Well, now I see that I have some books that I should try to read next year. I have been wondering about Enchanted Glass so I will pick up a copy of that. I've only read one Diana Wynne Jones - The Merlin Conspiracy. I really want to read a Lauren St John too so that is a must-do in 2011.

Thanks again for your support of the BBC. I can't wait to kick off. It starts like TOMORROW. Can't believe how quick it has come around.

Happy New Year MFB!

Unknown said...

What a fantastic reflective post Liz. I am looking at your book list and trying not to add more to my wishlist. Good Luck with the BBC challenge, I am doing it as well but not 50!!!!!