Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

This was a good book reading year -- I more than doubled my pace from last year.  I disliked a few reads -- mostly non-fiction -- and found myself challenged by much of what I read (lots of unlikable characters!).

My top ten is a mixed bag of some new releases and old ones, historical novels, lit fic, and genre.  Eight of the ten are set in the past (historical or alternate, but the past nonetheless), while two are set in the present.  Two of the ten are young adult novels.  Three are paranormal: two with werewolves and one with goblins.  One self-published!  All ten were written by women (unsurprising since only seven of the books I read this year were written by men!).

Creating this list has reminded me that I'm thinking about changing my rating system.  I used to rate things out of 10, but that seemed rather huge, so I dropped it to out of five, but as a result, I rate things high.  I find that when I dislike a book, it usually says something about me.  Rarely can I discern something specific about the book to warrant a low rating (although I did for a few).  If you're curious, here are all the books I read in 2010.

Here are the top ten for 2010.  These are the standout books this year that I can't stop talking about or recommending to anyone who makes the mistake of asking for a good book to read.  Tell me about your top 10 and what you think of mine if you've read any of them!

Michelle Davidson Argyle, Cinders (4/5)

I love fairy tale retellings so I was already primed to like this book.  What pushed it into Top Ten territory was the delicious sadness to it.  Like original fairy tales, there's some blood and murder and heart ache and hard lessons, and Argyle shows all without being horror movie grotesque or worse, cheesy.  It's a princess story for anyone who has bristled at the sanitized way fairy tales have been presented, all true love and Prince Charming. 

Carol K. Carr, India Black (5/5)

This snappy, sexy, funny historical novel is the reason I love adventure novels and historicals.  There's intrigue, politics, lots and lots of wry asides and witty one-liners, corsets, implied sex, and spyish flirting.  Honestly, I loved the heroes and villains alike; everyone was so well-written and fully articulated!  This book comes out in Jan, 2011 so I felt especially tickled to have a sneak peek -- and I am so very, very, very excited for the next India Black book.  I anticipate being a hardcore Carol K. Carr fangirl in the future. 

Gail Carriger, Soulless (5/5)

Steampunk, supernatural, Victoriana -- this book has it all.  Carriger is so flippin' clever I can't even take it; the dialogue in her books is some of the best I've read.  I enjoyed her world-building: it was engrossing without being overwhelming.  Readers seem to be really split between loving Connall or hating him; I'm firmly in the 'loving' category.  After Shiver, this just sealed the deal on my new-found werewolf love.

Catherine Delors, For the King (5/5)

I'm a sucker for anything set during the French Revolution, but Delors' novel was a fun departure from the usual novels I read featuring a high-born heroine trying to keep her head.  Despite the cover, the focus of the story is Roch Miquel, police inspector, and his CSI-ish investigation of an assignation attempt.  I have to confess I prefer to follow a heroine than a hero, but Roch was endearing and kept my interest (and garnered my sympathies).  He reminded me a bit of a younger brother trying to prove his worth, and that got me in the end.
Thaisa Frank, Heidegger's Glasses (5/5)

At risk of sounding glib, this is the Holocaust novel for those who might shy away from something so heavy.  This is a bittersweet and sad novel but it's punctuated by moments of real humanity.  Frank's writing is just gorgeous -- lyrical and dreamy -- without being overly ornate or complicated.  Even though she features a philosopher -- Heidegger -- one needn't be a philosophy major to understand the themes she explores.   

Kersten Hamilton, Tyger Tyger (4.5/5)

One of only two YA novels that made it onto my top ten.  This made my top ten because the heroine, Teagan, might be one of the best heroines I've read.  Not only is she consistent, but I found her to be vibrant and real.  She was able to be afraid without turning into a shivering flower, and she was a spitfire without being stereotypically "feisty".  Hamilton gave the reader plenty of evidence as to Teagan's resilience and courage.  Plus, I just adored the precociously brilliant little brother.  I'm in agony waiting for the second book!

Susan Kaye, None But You (5/5)

Jane Austen is hot right now so there's an ocean of spin-offs and retellings to swim through, but this book (the first of three) really grabbed my attention because it's from one of the lesser seen Austen novels, Persuasion, and because it follows Wentworth rather than Anne.  Kaye filled out scenes from Austen's novel beautifully and I felt like Kaye's Wentworth was Austen's Wentworth.  I was so engaged I didn't even notice where Austen's plot ended and Kaye's began.

Katharine McMahon, The Rose of Sebastopol (5/5)

This immensely satisfying historical novel took me utterly by surprise.  I knew nothing about it when I picked it up, but I was sucked in from the first sentence.  Both female characters could have gone into caricature route -- one demure and loyal, the other feisty and wild -- but McMahon made them real, flawed, human.  She even breathed life into Florence Nightingale, revealing a more historically accurate portrait of the woman.  And the romance -- oh, I still yearn!  I couldn't read this book fast enough but I hated being finished with it! 

Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver (5/5)

I picked this up mostly because I kept seeing it on GoodReads, usually as the most wanted book of 2010 or something like that.  I'm so thrilled I did -- it kicked off my renewed interest in paranormal and YA fiction, and made me feel that childish joy of reading for the pleasure of the story.  Plus, my wife can now tease me for crushing on a boy!  (Seriously, Sam is dreamy.)

Fay Weldon, She May Not Leave (5/5)

Perhaps the most traumatic book of 2010.  I read this back in January and I still talk about it to just about anyone who will listen.  Relationships, infidelity, deception, and parenting: a toxic but delicious cocktail.  If I recall correctly, other reviewers were cool on it, but the twist really gut-punched me.  A very visceral read.  Just looking at the cover again makes me feel sort of ill and anxious.


  1. Great top 10! Soulless was also one of my favorite reads of the year, I agree that Carriger writes some of the very best dialog! I've had Heidegger's Glasses on my TBR list since I started seeing the reviews, even though its outside my normal genre preference, it sounds like a really great read. And now thanks to your top 10, I've also added Cinders to my TBR. I love fairy tale retellings when they add that something extra. "Delicious Sadness" what a wonderful way to describe it. Thanks!

    --Donna @ The Happy Booker

  2. I have read three of those and I agree :)
    The rest I just have to find

  3. Aww, thanks so much for adding me to your list! I haven't read any of those others, but I'd like to get my hands on some of them. I LOVE the way you described CINDERS! :D

  4. Love reading Top 10s.....they add so much to my TBR. I want to read Heidegger's Glasses and I really like the sound of Cinders & India Black.
    The only one I've read is The Rose of Sebastopol and to be honest I didn't like it much. :-(

  5. @Donna: Heidegger's Glasses is worth straying from the usual, I think -- such lovely language! And def, def pick up Cinders - I read it in a night, I think, b/c I just couldn't put it down. It was so good and so, well, deliciously sad! That's really the only way to describe it!

  6. @Cat: I just enthused about HG and Cinders -- both are fabu. India Black is coming out Jan 4 and it is marvelous. Why didn't you like Rose of Sebastopol? There was a brief time while reading it that I thought I'd quit -- Rose's Rose-ish-ness was getting to me -- but I was very pleased come the end of the novel when it all wrapped up.

  7. @Blodeuedd -- Which three? If I could bear to part with my copies, I would, just to pass on the book love.

  8. @Michelle: Thank you for popping by! I've practically perfected my elevator speech for Cinders - I've been raving about it for months!

  9. @Juju: I really didn't expect to love it as much as I did -- but it really hit all the elements I want in a good YA paranormal without falling into stereotypes. Even the dippy, artistic parents -- usually my least favorite part of YA novels -- made sense and were so plot-necessary!