Tag Archives: BestOf

Book Stats & Favorite Books of 2016

RedAce

Stats

I’ll probably finish one more book before the end of the year, but here’s where I stand on December 26th.

Number of Books Read: 52
Average rating: 3.3

reviews

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Best of 2015

2015-end-of-year-book-survey-1024x984-900x865This survey has been put together by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-turner

I usually shy away from these sort of surveys because I don’t read that many books in a year. This year though, I read a lot of good books, but I’ve been having trouble deciding what to highlight. Enter the 2015 End of the Year Book Survey.

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

Magic is my bailiwick. By far, the best book I had the opportunity to read this year was volume two of House of Mystery, edited by Todd Karr and Teller. It contained all the crunchy bits that were missing from my understanding of David P. Abbott.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

This designation goes to my first read of 2015: Raylan by Elmore Leonard. It was the weakest of his books that I read and far inferior to Justified.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. …And not in a good way. Considering how beloved this book is, I was pretty underwhelmed. Sorry, everyone!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I was really happy that at least one blogger I know read Michael Pronko’s Beauty and Chaos because of me (I think).

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

I don’t read enough series to have an ender as well as a beginner, but I was pleased to start J. A. Lang’s Chef Maurice series.

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The Best I Read in 2014

The Two Standouts

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson

Nikola Tesla has become a hero lately; a bastion of innovative genius standing (and falling) against the capitalist system. Or something like that. Carlson’s Inventor of the Electrical Age investigates how Tesla’s background might have influenced his thinking and gives his innovations a place within history. There’s little about the sensational things (the Edison/Tesla feud, the love of pigeons, etc.) and more about how timing, economics, and personal politics helped and hindered Tesla.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Comics, escapology, and American history before, during, and after WWII. All written beautifully with love and care. Like Carter Beats the DevilKavalier & Clay tells a nearly complete history of its main characters. You live in the world with the characters for a while and, despite the good and the bad, you want to visit them again one day. I don’t know if I can ask for more from fiction.

Honorable Mentions

Short Fiction

Under Stars The Barnum Museum

Two Collections of Note

  • Under Stars by K.J. Kabza – Really great speculative fiction.
  • The Barnum Museum by Steven Millhauser – Some of my favorite short works of 2014 although we didn’t always get along. I’ve purchased Millhauser’s novel Martin Dressler. We’ll see how that goes.

Top Five from Deal Me In

(in no particular order)

Best Reads 2013

John Wiswell at The Bathroom Monologues is hosting Best Reads again. He’ll have a linkup on the 28th and the official hashtag on Twitter is #bestreads2013. Join us! We all need longer TBR lists, right?

The Speculative Fiction Crew

1414 by Peter Clines – What I assumed would be a horror novel was instead a Lovecraftian sci-fi story with enjoyable characters. I was especially impressed with the female cast. They were smart and capable and individual.

Whom the Gods Would Destroy by  Brian Hodge – Speaking of Lovecrafitian, Whom the Gods Would Destroy was probably the creepiest thing I read this year. Hodge mixes science with the occult. What is an incredibly technologically advanced being to us other than a god? And what if that god is truly amoral? These are unsettling questions.

In the Company of Thieves by Kage Baker – With this anthology, I was dipping into a sci-fi world that I knew nothing about. This could have gone poorly. Instead, I got immortals that aren’t emo, and the mortals  that get wrapped up in their hi-jinx. These stories are enjoyable, but gently tinged with melancholy.

If one word could sum up the Spec-Fic Crew, it would be surprise. Science fiction/fantasy were in the minority for me this year and my choices were pretty random. I came away with a great group of books and that is a little amazing. I’d like to think that it wasn’t just luck; that there is a whole slew of good adult spec-fic waiting to be gobbled up.

The Classic

Selected PoemsSmoke and Steel & Slabs of the Sunburnt West by Carl Sandburg

“I have ransacked the encyclopedias
And slid my fingers among topics and titles
Looking for you.”

Reading Carl Sandburg is as close to the early 1900s in the Midwest as I can get without building a time machine. The sights, sounds, smells. Urban and rural. He makes me homesick for somewhere that isn’t quite my home.

The Gothics

The SeanceThe Seance by John Harwood – Prophetic visions? Check. Crumbling manse? Check. Hidden diaries? Check. Spiritualism and bizarre science experiments? Check. This novel has all the makings of the best Hammer horror film ever. Reading Harwood’s novels is like being led through a cemetery after dark. You know there’s nothing there that can hurt you, but it doesn’t mean you’re not scared.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield – Subtitled “A Ghost Story,” this novel is probably the best fantasy world I’ve had the privileged to live in for a while. Truly, Setterfield builds her slightly magical world up around the reader in the narrative of Bellman’s life. It’s a quiet, gray world.

I love a good haunted house story, but I think the soul of gothic literature is the haunted person. These two novel present ghosts that are not entities, but histories. We all have histories…

The Magicians

Obviously, the biggest “genre” of literature I read this year involved magic. Fiction, non-fiction, related subjects. I didn’t care. I don’t care. I still have a shelf full that I haven’t gotten to.

Magic Shelfie

“Magic” Shelfie – With other research materials.

The Ambitious Card by John Gaspard – I love novels with a solid sense of place and this mystery put me smack-dab in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The magic and mystery were both solid. The characters were fun and well-handled. It was one of the few contemporarily set pieces of magic fiction that I came across this past year. I’m looking forward to another Eli Marks mystery in the future.

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen by David Gold – My favorite fiction novel of the year. It took me a while to get into this story, but I’m glad I did. I came to love the characters, even if they are full of faults. It’s fiction that lives in history and that’s something I want to read more of and to write as well. When I finished it, I didn’t think it was a book I’d want to reread. But it stuck in my head. Now, I own it and if I reread anything in 2014, it will be this book.

The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston versus Houdini & the Battles of the American WizardsHiding the Elephant and The Last Greatest Magician in the World by Jim Steinmeyer – I joked before that half of my 2013 top ten list would be Jim Steinmeyer. I ended up reading four of his books and all were good. All could be on this list, but I picked two. Steinmeyer loves his subjects and it’s not hard to be enthusiastic too. These books have taught me a lot about magic (Hiding the Elephant) and magic history (The Last Greatest Magician). They’ve also been pretty instrumental in furthering my thoughts about how we use narratives. Magic tricks are performed within the flow of a narrative and are backed by the narrative of their history. There are even narratives, true and false, told in order to explain illusions.  Many magicians have their own history as well as the history they create for themselves. Magic is a veritable onion of stories.

Best Reads 2012

John Wiswell @ The Bathroom Monologues is hosting #BestReads2012.  Hop on over to check out other lists of the best of the best in 2012!

When I was listing my favorite reads from 2012, there seemed to be some natural pairings.

The Westerns: Gunsights (Book #3) & Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories (Book #20) by Elmore Leonard – While this year didn’t mark the first time I’d read Elmore Leonard, it did mark the first time I’d read a proper Western. Despite being maybe a little too theatrical with character dialogue, I really enjoy how Leonard structures stories and writes action scenes. He makes it look so very easy.

The Memoirs: Chocolate & Vicodin by Jannette Fulda (Book #6) &  Bad Luck Officer by Suzie Ivy (Book #9) – Memoir is a tricky thing. While everyone has a story, not everyone has a compelling story. Jannette Fulda’s book is the story of her headache. What would do you do if you woke up with a headache that didn’t go away? How would you handle it? The best part of Chocolate & Vicodin is that Fulda is very human in the way she deals with it and that’s comforting. In the land of stories of strong women, I’d like to offer Suzie Ivy’s Bad Luck Officer (and Bad Luck Cadet). At “middle age” and after breaking a hip, Ivy decided to change what she was doing with her life. She applied to the police academy and became an officer with Smalltown, AZ PD. Again, I like how human Ivy’s stories are. Things aren’t always bright and shiny. Pushing through hard times are their own reward, not the end of the story.

The New (to me) Guy: Glen Hirshberg – I didn’t realized when I picked up an anthology of speculative fiction by Jewish writers that I’d find one of the best horror writers I’d read in a long while. After reading “The Muldoon” in People of the Book, I needed to read more Glen Hirshberg and picked up The Two Sams (Book #10) and The Snowman’s Children (Book #14). Hirshberg provides an enviable sense of place in his writings. It’s another thing that, as a writer, I need to take a good long look at, because he does it so seamlessly. And his stories are down-right creepy. I look forward to reading more of his work.

The Ones That Will Stick With Me: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Book #32) & Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers (Book #33) – After a bit of a lull in previous years, it’s been a good year for horror fiction for me. Lindqvist and Rogers are on opposite ends of the spectrum stylistically. Let the Right One In is a tapestry of characters inhabiting a grimy and sometimes very mundane world. Often, the mundane is more disturbing than the supernatural. On the other hand, Rogers stories are short and fantastical. Every House is Haunted has Twilight Zone/Outer Limits feel. Reality is just a tad skewed, in the best circumstances. Both authors and both books have become lodged in my mind. I don’t think a writer can ask for more.