Now that we're wrapping up 2011 and thinking about what to read for 2012, I thought it might be useful if we recapped some of the best books we've read for this year. A couple people have kept ratings on their challenge lists, and I've already found one I'd like to read next year based on a 5 star recommendation and reading the first chapter online. (Mockingbird, by Sean Stewart - thanks Pheonix)
The one that really stood out for me this year was Two Plays for Voices, by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman likes to explore different media, and Two Plays for Voices did for audio what critics claimed The Sandman did (but in fact, didn't) do for graphic novels. I Lois Lowry earned 5 stars for The Giver; being one of Lowry's books I expected nothing less than the best and she delivered. I also gave 5 stars to Orson Scott Card's The Seventh Son, although I'm willing to admit that fifth star might be a bit of a fantasy-western bias on my part. To be absolutely fair, I only gave Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer 4 stars, but possibly because fantasy romances aren't my favorite. Kushner's writing style is flawless.
Others that got only 4 stars still come highly recommended. I rated my 2011 list if you want to see those.
Looking at my list, here are the books I gave either 4 1/2 or 5 stars to, with links to my review where I wrote one:
The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum (Fantasy Mystery)
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (Gothic)
The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherynne M. Valente (Meta-Fantasy)
The White City, by Elizabeth Bear (Urban Fantasy)
The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson (William Crawford Award Winner)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente (Andre Norton Award Winner)
The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip (Mythopoeic Award Runner-Up)
Mockingbird, by Sean Stewart (World Fantasy Award Runner-Up)
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle (Favorite mythological creature)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones (Related Non-Fiction)
Though, interestingly enough, of all these books I loved, the only new-to-me author was Amanda Downum, making this challenge a little less full of delightful surprises than last year's was. (Last year I discovered Catherynne Valente and Elizabeth Bear and Kij Johnson through the challenge.)
I'll second the 5 stars for Habitation of the Blessed by Valente. I finished the 2nd in the trilogy, The Folded World, a week or two ago and it was just as good. The last one is expected to be released November of next year.
Sean Stewart was another favorite, with Galveston, especially. I liked Mockingbird a lot but the local dialect is off, so that kept me from giving it a full 5 stars. Anyone who hasn't lived in Houston probably won't notice.
Elizabeth Bear, both the New Amsterdam series and the Promethean series.
Lynn Flewelling's Tamir Triad was wonderful, 4 stars for the first book, 5 for the second two.
My biggest surprise was Lord Dunsany's Fifty-One Tales. I wasn't expecting much since I don't care for his novels, but it turns out I love his short stories.
Other 5 star books for the challenge:
I'm so glad I got Habitation of the Blessed for free on my Kindle! I keep seeing such good reviews for the book itself and the series, but sometimes the free ebooks are hit or miss. I'm planning on reading it in 2012.
My favorite fantasy/SF books this year are Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.
Last Edited on: 12/21/11 10:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
My best fantasy reads for the 2011 challenge were:
Gothic: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Interstitial: The Life of Pi by Yann Martell
Wierd/New Wierd: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
Modern Retelling of Fairytale: The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson
Myth of Southern Hemisphere: The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith
Secret and Locus Award: The Shape Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn
Aurealis Award: Abhorsen by Garth Nix
2010 Recommended List: The Red Wolf by Robert V. Redick
Last Edited on: 1/9/12 3:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
There's really great books mixed in with those e-book freebies sometimes. The problem is figuring out which are which, especially now that there's so many every day. Lots of times I just grab everything fantasy/sci fi so that way I have it if someone ever recommends it to me.
Downum's The Bone Palace that PhoenixFalls liked was a freebie in Nov '10.
I'm definitely going to try to read The Fox Woman now.
This was my first year participating in the reading challenges.
I've always considered myself primarily a SciFi Fan. As a kid and young adult I read and loved Frank Herbert’s Dune Series, E.E. Doc Smith’s stuff, Asimov’s Foundation Series and L. Ron Hubbard’s short stories and later the Mission Earth Series and Battlefield Earth; the latter which I rate as one of my top 3 books ever read!
This year I realized that I actually enjoy Fantasy more! Of the 64 books I read, my top 3 were Fantasy and my runner-up was SciFi.
1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin [****] – Fantasy
2. Firedrake by Richard A. Knaak [****] – Fantasy/Dragon
3. Gwenwyfar: The White Spirit, a Novel of King Arthur by Mercedes Lackey [****1/2] – Fantasy/King Arthur
Runner-up: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card [****] – Science Fiction
Through the challenges I read 16 new authors which was exactly what I wanted to discover and one of my motivations behind joining the challenges.
I'm looking forward to the 2012 challenges. Happy New Year and see you all next year!
Last Edited on: 12/31/11 11:41 AM ET - Total times edited: 2