This wasn’t a great reading year for me, because pregnancy and then a newborn do not lend themselves well to the kind of concentration I find I now need to get through a book. So many book started! So many put aside! I’m about to go and look at my 2011 list, but before I do I’m trying to think of what I read and what I loved – and am coming up a blank. That says more about my memory than anything else, so I’m hoping I read some gems this year and have just forgotten amidst the craziness of having a baby!
Now that I’ve gone through the list for the year, it’s no surprise to me to see that so many of the books I most enjoyed are genre fiction, romance in particular. I read a lot of mediocre books, and there are ones that I really liked but not enough to put them on this list (though see my Honourable Mentions, below, for those).
This list is roughly in the order I read them during the year, and links go to my full reviews. All of them I highly recommend!
1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
I didn’t quite read this in one day, but only because I had stuff to do. But I was so reluctant to put it down that when I was out I had to stop in the book shop, grab a copy off the shelf, find my page and read another hundred pages. It’s not like “standard” fantasy, it’s one of the new breed like Maria V Snyder, if you get me. Don’t really know how else to describe it. There are two more, and I’ve got them, and I’m really looking forward to reading them.
2. Under The Skin by Michel Faber
Psychological Thriller; Speculative Fiction
This is probably my favourite read of the year. Utterly original and hugely compelling, not everyone’s going to like it but you should still try it – and avoid any reviews that tell you too much about the plot. Like Never Let Me Go, it would completely lose its power if you knew what was coming. It starts out as a psychological thriller about a small woman driving up and down a highway in Scotland, looking for hitchhiking men to kidnap, and you run through many scenarios as to what’s going on. When the truth is revealed, it shifts gears, but I won’t tell you more than that. This book completely absorbed me for the short duration I was reading it.
3. Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone
Historical Romance; Erotic Romance
I think this is Featherstone’s first book but I’m not completely sure; it’s the first of hers I read though, and it was intense, emotionally gripping and vivid. The historical setting made a nice change from all those regency romances, and the opium addiction of the male protagonist made for a dark, sensual story.
4. Spy Glass by Maria V Snyder
The third book in the Glass trilogy was the best of the lot, not just in terms of story but also in storytelling – Snyder’s writing really improved and I had no complaints with this one. It’s a trilogy I wouldn’t mind re-reading, and made me go and get the Study trilogy that preceded it (same world, some of the same characters, but several years on).
5. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
This emotionally intense and heart-breaking story of sibling love and parental neglect is wrenching, and so beautifully and realistically told. It’s novels like this that remind me that great YA fiction is still being written! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Suzuma.
6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Who didn’t love this book? Well yes that’s not impossible, but still, I fully expect to see this book on lots of lists this week! Perkins’ debut novel about Anna’s final year of high school spent at an American school in Paris, and the boy, St Clair, that she falls in love with, will make you laugh, make you care, make you grin at the ending and remind you, like with Forbidden above, that there’s excellent YA fiction being published after all. The writing is superb, the banter effortless, and it’ll leave you with this wonderful, warm, light, joyful feeling.
7. Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon
I’m glad that I loved this, as I already had another one of her books (Foursome) and don’t you hate it when you have more than one book by an author you find you really don’t like? (I have that issue with Lora Leigh…) Getting Rid of Matthew surprised me, especially considering that, on the surface, it’s a depressing sort of premise: Helen is having an affair with an older married man; after several years, he finally, suddenly leaves his wife (who had no idea there was anything wrong with their relationship) and two kids for Helen – and she realises she doesn’t want him anymore. It’s very well written, the characterisation is excellent, it’s realistic and believable and as the story progressed I honestly didn’t see how Helen could come out the other end with any degree of happiness – oh yes, Helen is one of those characters you don’t like (and aren’t meant to like) in the beginning, but as the story progresses you realise you’ve become very fond of her, so much so that you start to long for everything to work out. Oh, and don’t let people dismiss this as chick-lit: it’s nothing at all like Sophie Kinsella et al, though it’s also not as straight-laced as Lionel Shriver (I’m thinking of The Post Birthday Party).
8. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Having just finished Anna, above, it was a relief to hear that Perkins’ second book, Lola, was about to be released. I know I’m not the only one who
read devoured it as soon as it arrived in the mail box! I loved this one as much as Anna – it may not have had the fun banter but it was its own story and just as great – and just as well written. Between Perkins, Suzuma and a couple of others, I feel like I still have faith in high quality YA fiction. 🙂
9. Alien Tango by Gini Koch
Science Fiction; Romance
While the first and third books in the series (Touched by an Alien and Alien in the Family, respectively) were also exciting, fun reads, this one was my favourite so far. We’re comfy in the world, we’ve got all the background info we need from the first book, and this one really took the ball and lobbed it much, much higher. I’m full of love for Kitty, Martini and the rest. I have to thank Chelle (Tempting Persephone) for getting me onto these books!
10. the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Children’s Fantasy; YA Fantasy
Re-reading this series this year has been one of the best reading experiences. I’ve nearly finished the last book as I type this – we’re in Kings Cross Station – and I’m actually loving that my memory is so poor, because I’d completely forgotten so much, like why we end up liking Snape, etc. All the books are fantastic, and as a whole I can only continue to marvel at Rowling’s tightly-woven tapestry, all the little details and side-plots that make up the whole, and create one tremendous, powerful story. There are still plenty of people who haven’t read the books, and it’s to them that I highly recommend them.
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Jatta by Jenny Hale
The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
A Novel Seduction by Gwyn Cready