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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mihir’s Top Reads of 2009


This is my first time at compiling such a list, so kindly excuse my mistakes. I'm very much a lover of Fantasy and Thriller books & thanks to FantasyBookCritic I got to broaden my reading horizons as well. Presented here are my top 20 picks amongst all the 80-100 odd titles I managed to read this year. Also given are the top 10 debuts for 2009 and as well as the top 5 YA books. Many of the reviews are from the FBC site done by Liviu, Robert or me, however for I have linked reviews from sites which I read myself. Some books were released in 2008[and one even in 1997] as well but I have included them over here as I got to read them this year. And now onto the list.

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2009 top 20 titles:

1] The Painted Man/The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

This was my favorite book of 2009 as the author combined elements of heroic, epic & dark fantasy and the tale was riveting and so were the characters in spite of the obvious tropes which were utilized, Peter V. Brett did a fine job of announcing himself on the fantasy scene. His book was my choice for the DGLA award this year (Though sadly it didn't make the shortlist I felt it best encapsulated the feel of David Gemmell's books & themes) I know that it was released as TPW in the UK circa 2008 however TWM was released over here in 2009 & I first read the story as TWM. This series hopefully will be allowed to run its natural storytelling course of 5 books. If Peter V. Brett continues in this fine form this series might become a classic of this genre, sequel book is highly anticipated

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Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

The Dresden files authored by Jim Butcher are 11 books strong and still ongoing. This series is considered to be the Gold Standard in the Urban Fantasy by fans & critics alike. This book featured a big event & a simultaneous upheaval in the life of Harry Dresden & was another terrific page-turner by Jim Butcher who seems oblivious to law of averages & is prolific enough to continue putting out a book every year. Next year book features a change in the title pattern and is also called "Changes" another must-read for me.

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3] Traitor Gate by Kate Elliott

The ending to the Gate trilogy was in a word "stupendous". Kate Elliot managed to carry across all the characters & story threads begun in the previous 2 volumes and managed to give a rousing climax book in which all expectations were overturned. This book & series has converted me back into the KE camp as her earlier Crown of Stars series was a bit of a letdown for me. The 3rd book ended the Gate trilogy & now with 4 books to go, it will be fun to what Kate has in store for this fantastical world.

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4] The Lovers by John Connolly

John Connolly's The Lovers was another terrific title in the Charlie Parker series and one which changed the plot equations. This book managed to overtake my already high expectations after last years' "The Reapers". You have to hand it to the author when the book holds your interest throughout even when a third of book is spent between 2 characters discussing the past of the protagonist. Plus with another slam-bang ending & more ominous pointers to the future The Lovers was definitely a fantastic tale and after The Black Angel is my 2nd favorite in the Charlie Parker series.

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5] The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

Another debut title which heralded talent was The Ghosts of Belfast/The Twelve by Stuart Neville. This book was another tale which while having clich├ęd characters managed to upturn them and surprise the readers. Stuart Neville sets this story in Dublin where an ex-hitman remises about his past and who is also harangued by his mistakes as 12 innocent souls continue to be seen by him. The tale is dark and so is the setting as seen in the review. Stuart Neville is definitely someone to look out for in the future based on the potential showcased here. His second book Collision is also set in the same world and is a sort of sequel with different characters.

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6] Kell's Legend by Andy Remic

This book was Andy Remic's take on fantasy, his first foray in the field which had enamored him & probably inspired him to become an author in his own right. In his previous books Andy had shown his madcap characters and brazen plots & sheer breakneck plot twists. Now he's bought all of that & also shown his view of Gemmellian setting in this trilogy opener. This book definitely was 1 of the best rollercoaster rides for me & I'm hooked onto the Clockwork Vampire saga.

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7] Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Cemetery Dance was a return after nearly 2 years to the world of A.X.L. Pendergast by Messrs Preston & Child & it wasn't a happy return of sorts for the readers as the opening chapters dealt with the death of 1 of PC's beloved characters. As the review details this book was a good one, better than its predecessor "The Wheel of Darkness" and a much applauded return to techno-horror roots by the duo. Next year is the start of the Helen [Pendergast's wife] trilogy which will be a landmark event for all fans as we get to see into his past and learn of many events which made him what he is today.

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8]The Shadow Pavilion by Liz Williams

Liz Williams is a multi-faceted individual and this shows even here in her writing as she flits across genres as seen by her novels, short stories and novellas. The Inspector Chen series is a curious amalgamation of Chinese Mythology, Urban fantasy & SF, the previous three books were tremendous reads and in this one Liz Williams decides to broaden her horizons by crossing the Himalayan border This story was another great addition to the saga and has specified a great direction for the remaining books in the series making "The Iron Khan" another Must-read for me next year.

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9] The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

With James Rollins readers who love his style are always assured of a smooth & intriguing read. Since the start of the SIGMA series with Sandstorm James has rather heightened the stakes. In the 5th outing of the SIGMA crew Gray has to make a choice between 2 important people in his life and at the same time figure out a solution to the main crisis as given in the review. After the end of this book with a mini cliffhanger James has set the stage for the next book which will have fans salivating for the identity of the character, the clash between SIGMA & Guild & possibly various deaths as well.

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10] Angelglass by David Barnett

This book was brought to my attention by Liviu & after I read the excerpt I knew I had to get it. The detailed & beguiling review by Liviu, tells us about the dual time line story which is written smoothly by the author and the conclusion while a surprise is a fitting end to the tale. David Barnett shows a flair for the fantastic and as Liviu says in the review "we have a novel that at about 240 pages in length packs the narrative heft of a 500 page one." Definitely a novel deserving to be read more.

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11] The Gods of Amyrantha by Jennifer Fallon

This series was my introduction to wonderful world of Jennifer Fallon After the super first novel Jennifer doesn't disappoint in her build up to her eventual climax in book 4, things go from weird to crazy in this book as new complications arise and totally new plot possibilities are hinted at & oh the book ends with a super revelation. This lady knows her stuff & I have already read the third book so I know it just keeps on getting better (or worse for some characters).

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12]Damnable by Hank Schwaeble

This was another worthwhile debut for me as Hank Schwaeble took the Jack Reacher prototype and spun it on its head & while doing so gave another cool character to follow. Jake Hatcher is something of an enigma and I very much look forward to reading more about him & the world created in Damnable. Kudos to Hank for giving us a tale which has straddles effortlessly the fine line between 2 genres (horror & thriller) and still manages to surprise the reader in the end.

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13] Fugitive by Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin is a hidden gem in the mystery-thriller market, all of his past books have been NYT bestsellers and yet he keeps on plugging his way to give us such wonderfully thrilling books. Fugitive is the 4th book in the Amanda Jaffe series and it has the usual Margolin trademarks of a wide cast of characters, devious plotting and a great story. One of the highlights of this series is that the author only brings out a book if he feels the plot matches the characters & is suitable and thus every book when its released becomes a must read for me. Another delectable read and Phillip proves once again why he can be relied upon for some sumptuous reading.

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14] Songspinners by Sarah Ash

Songspinners was published in 1997, however it was my bad luck that I managed to read it so late. That being said it is a book which is my favorite amongst all her titles. It's a book about the right to freedom and the ability to live one's life with dignity & happiness. I wasn't able to review it but this review from Amazon encapsulates a lot as to why I loved this book. For those readers already into Sarah's books this book can be considered to be a sequel of sorts to The Alchymist's Legacy duology as some of the characters in it are featured prominently in this book.

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15] Neuropath by Scott Bakker

As far as serial killer stories go, Neuropath was a landmark serial killer novel wherein the Modus Operandi of the antagonist was described sparingly but it did not diminish its chillingness. R. Scott Bakker proves veritably that when it comes to philosophical prose & complex plots he's definitely leagues ahead of his contemporaries.

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16] Nights of Villjamur by Mark C. Newton

This book was a major surprise read for me, I didn't know what to expect with this and MCN certainly surprised me a lot with this book primarily its settings and varied characters as seen in the FBC review. This is a book to be savored and its sequel is looked forward gladly.

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17] Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

I'm a lover of Historical fantasy and Conn Iggulden is a particular favorite of mine his Genghis Khan novels are a treat to read, granted he tells the stories with some modifications but he does acknowledge them in the afterword and also it just is absolutely wonderful on the part of the author when you end up rooting for a character & people whom you know historically to be barbaric plunderers. The story of Genghis Khan ends with this book however the Mongol saga will be extended for another 3 books which entails the stories of his Children and Grandchildren. 2010 will see the release of Ogedai: Empire of Silver which is another title which will be on my Must-read list.

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18] The Burning Skies by David Williams

After last year's Mirrored Heavens David J. Williams has established himself as writer with a crazy but scary vision of the future. In the 2nd installment of the Autumn Rain Trilogy he proves that he wasn't a one shot wonder. With another slam-bang ending involving a cliffhanger, the Machinery of Light is rather urgently awaited to see how it all ends. And based on his current 2 books I'm sure it will be something which will surprise the readers.

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19] Flight into Darkness by Sarah Ash

Sarah Ash is another favourite of mine and with this book she bring to an end to "The Alchymist's legacy" duology however the icing on the cake is that this book also ties in with her original Artamon trilogy and this book showcases events which take place in that series but from a different perspective and with the addition of several other plot elements. It also gives the fans a nice glimpse into the events which have taken place after the monumental climax in the "Children of the serpent gate" and shows the aftermath which also ties in wonderfully with the events of this duology. A resounding conclusion to a fine story begun in "Tracing the Shadow" and again very much recommended to fans of Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb & James Clemens.

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20] Darkborn by Alison Sinclair

Alison Sinclair took a biological route with the light-dark motif and has come up with a remarkable setting. The tale is quite a straight forward one and comes to a logical conclusion. The sequel Lightborn will reveal the intricacies of this world further as it basically shows the readers the viewpoint from the side of the light.

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2009 YA top 5:

I haven't read as many YA books as compared to my SFF reads and so I'll be limiting it to only 5, for those interested in YA titles look out for Cindy's[resident YA expert] list on it.

1] Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by A. Gordon Smith

This was perhaps the 1 of the best YA books I have ever read and it was a rollercoaster of a ride all the way. A. Gordon Smith has done his absolute best to make sure that reader expectations will constantly be upturned & even ends the book on a resounding cliffhanger making the next 2 books which are already released on the other side of the pond utterly crave able.

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2] Jake Ransom & the Skull King's Shadow by James
Rollins

This book would have made # 1 if it were not for Gordon's crackerjack of a book. This book has all the Rollins trademarks such as engaging characters, amazing locales and this one was laced with dinosaurs as well. I wasn't able to review it an error which I'll definitely rectify with its sequel Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx.

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3] The Gates by John Connolly

This book was an experiment and I'm glad John Connolly wrote it. Utterly hilarious in itself and with a simple plotline, this book was 1 of best comedic books for me. Many of the lines show John's trademark humour and with the scientific footnotes in it this book easily entertained and educated. If John ever does write a sequel to it, it will be fun to see what happens afterwards.

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4] The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki

The stone child was a book meant for Children and adults who loved scary stories when they were children. This debut effort deals with a classic mystery of a missing author and the clues left behind in a book. Dan Poblocki combines smart prose with an active imagination to give us the mystery of the Stone Child.

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5] The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I had heard about this book since its release last year and after reading it I'm in complete agreement with its popularity and hype across readers.

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2009 debuts or debuts which I read in 2009:

1] The Painted man/The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett – This was the debut of this year for me, granted I haven't read that many titles in many genres but this book totally captivated me and made this series and Peter V Brett, something to look out for in the future.

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2] The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville – Another debut which will be long remembered and cherished. Stuart Neville is another author whose books are on my buy list.

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3] Damnable by Hank Schwaeble – Hank Schwaeble's book is another hidden gem which has gone unheralded. With a tight ending to it, I look eagerly to what Hanks's devious mind comes up with.

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4] Armageddon Bound by Tim Marquitz – Armageddon Bound was laced with deadpan, self depreciating humor, tremendous action & a protagonist who while appearing as a nasty bloke will have you rooting for him in no time. Tim Marquitz really surprised me with this book & as far as UF books go, I'm hoping that more readers discover this gem [Jim Butcher fans will absolutely relish this one] after PBV's The Demon world series, it's the Demon squad series which I'm excited about (in terms of new series potential)

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5] Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal – HB was a trip worth reading. Shilpa Agarwal managed to make the Bombay I know personally into an exotic & semi-mystical place to which even I'm curious to visit. This book set in the 1960s Bombay was a veritable trip as seen through the various characters. Shilpa Agarwal is definitely deserving of many awards and with her next book I hope she manages to hit several bestseller lists as well.

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6] Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary A. Ballard - This book was 1 of my first cyberpunk novels and I'm absolutely loved this one. A bit on the shorter side with 170 pages, the author has coiled quite a strong punch in it for the readers. After finishing this book, I immediately followed on to the 2nd book in the series & that one absolutely rocked, making Gary A. Ballard an author to look out for and definitely someone who should be read more.

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7] Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

Robert's review amped this one on my list and even though I was able to get my hands on it, I wasn't able to read it earlier. Stephen Deas has written quite a fast paced tale which makes you follow the plot anxiously and even though the book ends rather too quickly for the readers liking. It still will make you want you to pick its sequel "The King of Crags"

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8] Father of Locks by Andrew Kileen - This book would have escaped me if not for Liviu's excellent review. And as stated this book is an absolute delight for those readers interested in an Arabian Nights-esque world, add to that a rather belligerent & baffling protagonist. This book was tantalizing enough to look forward to the next AK book which features the titular character Abu Nuwas yet again.

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9] The Crown Conspiracy by Michael Sullivan – This was another surprise read for me as I, probably with lots of others, wouldn't have even heard of it if it were not for Liviu's review. This book does start of as a typical fantasy caper but the characters make it stand out and while the ending is a rather simple one, it does have ominous pointers for the rest of the books which I plan to catch soon.

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10] Nuclear Winter Wonderland by Joshua Corin - This was a weirdly funny ride. I absolutely loved the author's plot and characters which constantly kept on haranguing the protagonist further and further from his goal. The book has a quirky side to it and it just kept me hooked till its very end, which with it lead-up was quirkier and ended on a happy note for the long-suffering central protagonist.

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BOOKS WHICH I MISSED OUT ON: These were the books which I wanted to catch but somehow didn't & hence I wasn't able to include them in any of the lists above.

1] Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

2] Avempartha by Michael J. Sullivan

3] Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

4] The Rats and the Ruling Sea by Robert V. Redick

5] The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel

6] The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

7] Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

About Jim Butcher... not only is he releasing a book a year, he has been releasing 2 books a year for the last 6 years with Codex Alera; which he recently completed with First Lord's Fury.

Let's see how he does going forward. Will he start a new series? Focus solely on Dresden?

I don't know, but what he has done has been very very impressive, particularly since as the series have gone on the page count in the novels have gone up considerably.

The Reader said...

Hi Anon

Yes JB has been prolific on that level, I'll be reviewing First Lord's Fury as well next year.

I'm hoping that he will start another SF series which is about some Marines on the moon[Or something similar to that, he had mentioned this in a book signing last year] the main character in that is called Glen Cannon.

Hiss writing speed and plots are really to be admired.

Mihir

David Barnett said...

Well, I'd like to say I'm very gratified to appear in that list. Thanks a lot!

David Barnett
(www.davidbarnett.org.uk)

Liviu said...

Another great list that shows the diversity of books we love and cover here at FBC

The Reader said...

Thanks Liviu

Its due to you that I could get to know of many books which made the list. Here's looking forward to a great 2010 :)

Mihir

Caitrin said...

Yes, I definitely recommend reading Butcher's Codex Alera series...it's fantastic!

Nayan said...

Although I know a few of your all time best reads, would you mind sharing them with everyone here?

Susan Tunis said...

Excellent list, Mihir. There are a lot of books and authors I'm unfamiliar with, but I really like your summary of each book chosen.

Thanks for sharing!

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