Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Half-Yearly Report - My Top 10 Books

I've seen a few of these cropping up on some of my favourite blogs, so I decided to also sit down and decide on my top 10 books in 2010 so far.

I've read 60 books up until now, so it took me a fair amount of whittling down to get to my favourite 10! What I did realise is that, although this has been a good solid year, it has not been fantastic yet: I've liked an awful lot of books, and some of them have been brilliant, but I've also read a large number of 'meh' books. Enjoyable at the time, but ultimately forgettable. The back end of the year and my TBR pile should soon sort that out, with books like The Passage and The Way of Kings waiting my attention, so I'm very sure that a number of the following books won't feature in my full year report, but, as of now and in reverse order, these are the books I've most enjoyed reading in 2010.

10) Wife, Interrupted by Amy Molloy

This was a book I brought myself, on a whim, and found myself blown away by the stark honesty and the moving anecdotes about coping with a partner who has cancer, and how to continue living when they have died. Molloy's writing was brutal at times, looking unflinchingly at the pain and suffering - mental and physical - caused by terminal illness. A very powerful book.

9) A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough

A Matter of Blood was sent to me for review, and I provided a guest review on Book Chick City. This supernatural horror was tremendously exciting, fast-paced and dark. I found the first 100 pages or so a little tough going, but then was swept into a real page-turner. I also loved the fact that this book blurs genre boundaries, and could sit quite happily in crime, fantasy or horror, and I'm looking forward thoroughly to the next novel in the trilogy.

8) Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

This was a book I borrowed from a friend and it was my first piece of tie-in fiction, my first Horus Heresy novel and my first Dan Abnett novel. Happily, my experimentation in picking up Horus Rising was repaid in great measure by a thrilling slice of pulp science fiction. The opening to the Horus Heresy series was grim, full of tremendously cinematic battle scenes and contained moments of pathos and dark military humour.

7) Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Sam Sykes' debut was sent to me by Gollancz when I shamelessly begged for a copy. I was tremendously glad I did. I know this book has seen distinctly mixed reviews, but I found it a blast. The writing was surprisingly graceful and poetic at times, and the scenes involving the Abysmyth were genuinely chilling. I happen to like the old fantasy trope of a mixed group of characters struggling to get along, and Sykes employed it to great effect. A strong debut, and a lot of promise for the future.

6) Wolfsangel by M D Lachlan

Just ahead of Tome of the Undergates is another Gollancz debut - this one a gripping read, heavy on the Norse mythology, and, at its heart, a love story that spans the centuries. Lachlan writes with great respect for the source material, and his love for the original mythology of Odin and Loki comes across very strongly. The werewolf twist is by now well-known, but I still wish the early readers of this novel had joined a conspiracy to keep it secret so that the sheer impact could be felt. Disregarding this, we are left with a thumping good book in the tradition of David Gemmell.

5) The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin

Really, The Midnight Mayor and A Madness of Angels sit together in this entry, since the style of the writing and the essence of the story is a continuation from one novel to the next. Kate Griffin writes true urban fantasy, with extremely lyrical prose and vivid imagination, where the city of London is a character in its own right. Dragons, shadows, blue electric angels - the world of Matthew Swift stayed with me long after closing the final page. I can't wait for the next.

4) Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

In April Mark Chitty from Walker of Worlds held a Sci-Fi Appreciation Month, and I decided to contribute a review, since I have read woefully little in the way of hard science fiction. I chose Richard Morgan's debut, since I read and enjoyed his fantasy work The Steel Remains. I was blown away by the taut noir thriller, amazed by the futuristic picture presented - the idea of sleeving intrigued me and I felt that Morgan explored it in an effective manner. Takeshi Kovacs is an incredibly strong anti-hero character, and I'm dying to read more about him.

3) Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

This might be seen by some as a controversial choice, featuring as it does a love story between two siblings. The novel is poignant, challenging and, ultimately, heart-breaking. Suzuma writes with great assurance on her subject matter, also tackling such weighty matters as abuse, abandonment and depression. Never less than outstanding.

2) The City and The City by China Mieville

I think a number of people who read my blog will be surprised to see this book pushed into the number 2 slot for this year! When I read The City and The City, I genuinely felt as though I was reading a modern classic - something that will be picked up and taught to future English Literature scholars. The breaktaking idea of the two cities co-existing with all the associated issues of 'unseeing' left me marvelling and I still, after a couple of months, find myself wondering about the logistics and the origin of how it came to be. For me, a book that you still think about when you have finished it is the mark of something excellent.

So what novel made it into the number 1 slot for 2010 so far....?

That would be...

1) Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L Howard

I said this about the novel: "Jonathan L. Howard infuses Johannes Cabal the Necromancer with flavours from other authors and from films, but the book as a whole is unique and very, very funny." And this: "The pacing is perfect. We start with an entertaining visit to Hell (a bureaucratic nightmare, with a pen-pushing clerk as a doorman). Then, the plot kicks into a higher gear and sweeps through a year of thrilling adventures as Johannes Cabal attempts to win his wager with Satan by running a twisted carnival." And finally this: "This is the sort of book that, having finished it — even in the wee small hours of the morning — you want to wake up all your friends and insist they begin it immediately." It is a damn near perfect book as far as I am concerned, an absolute blast to read from start to end, with memorable characters and a tremendous amount of humour. I do urge you all to pick yourself up a copy!

So there you have it! Those are my best books of 2010 so far: Which do you agree with? Which do you disagree with? Which have you or haven't you read? Which are you now tempted by? As always, comments appreciated!


  1. I have defeated Sarah Pinborough!

    Yet I am defeated by Mieville? This shall not stand.

    Next year, maybe! In the meantime, thanks for the list! I have bought three of these books on YOUR RECOMMENDATION so far. Mein gott.

  2. Mein gott indeed! I dearly hope my recommendations have lived up to your expectations! Thanks Sam - always good to know people are taking a look at books thanks to my words.

  3. I greatly enjoyed Altered Carbon - it was one of my ten picks for the past decade. I'm working on Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, although I don't know when I'll get to it.

  4. Now would be an awesome time to get to Johannes, Andrew, being as how Johannes Cabal the Detective is on the verge of release by Headline :-). You can read them back to back!

  5. I've read one of those ten so far, The City & The City, and it is an excellent read. I have Wolfsangel and the first Kate Griffin A Madness of Angels on my to read pile and there are two on the list I want to read (Tome and A Matter of Blood) at some point. Maybe I'll get them as Christmas presents! A little afraid to try and add up how many books I've read so far this year though.

  6. I'm almost jealous of all the fab books you have yet to tackle, Steve! I would encourage adding up the books you've read - it gives a remarkable sense of achievement. You can say: 'Ah, that was what I spent all those hours on!' :-)

  7. Thanks for the list!

    A couple there I would like to read.

  8. It's going to be a big job to add up all those books, and work out which were this year and which last year, hmm, maybe when I get back from my holidays.

  9. I haven't read any of them! Wife Interrupted... I wont read, to close to home, lot of that horible disease in the family but the others... I think will be finding there way on to my list tonight. In particular A MAtter Of Blood, City and the City, Necromancer and Forbidden methinks.

  10. Ooer - typing all over the place tonight - sorry about that.

  11. Not bad going, 60 books in a year. I've only one of the ones you mentioned. I may have to try the Cabal book.

    I think my favourite of the year so far could well be the book I'm currently reading, Escher's Loops by Zoran Zivkovic, but I will admit to having only just started it.

    A. Lee Martinez's Monster is fun as is Dead Streets by Tim Waggoner. And Stephen King's Under the Dome was the best he's done in years so I'd have to add that too.

  12. @Carmen - I can understand not reading Wife, Interrupted if it is a close to home matter. Glad I'm suggesting some decent reads to you!

    @I.E.Lester - Definitely try the Cabal book! I am on a crusade getting other people to read it :-) I have Monster and Dead Streets on my tottering TBR pile so might bump them up on *your* recommendation. King has continually passed me by - one of my book fails. So many people whose opinions I trust have mentioned Under the Dome as being a fabulous read - when this embargo is over, I shall duly purchase it.

  13. Another good King read, in fact my favourite he's ever done and I've read a lot of his - The Green Mile. Utterly astonishing. Loved it. And, amazingly, the film adaptation is really really good, but with Frank Darabont involved, it was never going to be rubbish.

  14. @Amanda - Hopefully. I've got 5-10 books on my plate as it is, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, so getting to the sequel would be a long way out, for sure.

  15. @amanda: Just bought the 1st Cabel book on your recommendation :) Greetings from Belgium !

  16. Well of these City and the City and Forbiden are on their way to my house as part of my birthday loot, and Tome, Wolfsangel and Johannes Cabal are on my neverending wishlist.