Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

OHara's Book Reviews: Best of 2010

When I first started this blog way back in July, I just wanted to have a small site in which to store the reviews of the books I read. I thought it would be fun to have a permanent record, just for myself.

Naturally, I was very excited when I saw that people around the world were actually reading my stupid little book review blog. I haven't gotten a tremendous amount of hits, but I've been thrilled to see that somebody is enjoying my reviews. There are obviously people out there who are just as interested in books as I am!

And since this is the time of year when people start making their "Best of the Year" lists, I figured it would be fun to have a little "awards ceremony" here on the blog (even though it hasn't really been running a full year).

Over the past few months, I've read twenty-five books of fiction, which is a little off my usual average. I've had a fairly hectic fall and winter and not as much time to read as I'd like--also, some of the books I've read recently have been pretty huge. The Fiery Cross was so big that it was physically difficult to tote around.

And now for the awards, which I have made up and which have no significance in real life. The only prize is bragging rights.

Funniest Book of the Year:

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Jeeves and the Tie that Binds by P.G. Wodehouse

How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

I do like my British humorists. Maybe it's the dry wit. Maybe it's the wacky characters with the wonderful names (Augustus Snodgrass, Bertram Wooster, Rincewind). Maybe it's just because there isn't enough American comic fiction. Anyway, I have to go with my gut on this one--at least, the gut from which my frenzied belly laughs were emitting. How Right You Are, Jeeves is definitely the funniest book I've reviewed on this blog. Nobody can make me laugh like Wodehouse and HRYAJ is an absolute comic masterpiece. Jeeves and Wooster have never been more hilarious, the plot never more ridiculously tangled and the supporting cast never more colorful.

Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Book of the Year:

Olympos by Dan Simmons

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Much as I enjoyed Eye and Olympos (and even The Host), this category has only one obvious winner. His Dark Materials is an instant classic, a kinetic mixture of fantastic storytelling and mind-bending metaphysics. No book this year made me think--or care--as much as Pullman's three-volume masterpiece.

Best Mystery/Thriller of the Year (Older Category):

Three Men Out by Rex Stout

The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Soft Touch by John D. MacDonald

This is a tricky category. MacDonald is definitely the best stylist of the three and Soft Touch is a great little piece of noir fiction, but my heart says Three Men Out. I just can't get enough of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Best Mystery/Thriller of the Year (Newer Category)

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming

To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming

All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming

The Hard Way by Lee Child

China Lake by Meg Gardiner

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

Another tough one. There are several fabulous books on this list. Frankly, Child is tough to beat at the top of his game, as is Leonard. Ultimately, though, I have to pick the book that shocked me, sucked me in, gave me chills and broke my heart. All Mortal Flesh is Julia Spencer-Fleming at her very, very best, and a more spellbinding, emotionally shattering read would be hard to find.

Best Modern Literature of the Year:

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Um, sorry Stephen. You know that I love you, but McEwan is one of the finest prose writers I've ever read and Atonement is pure bliss for book lovers. The Dunkirk sequence deserves to become a classic piece of writing, on par with anything you're likely to find in the English language.

Best Classic Literature of the Year:

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

I've read my share of Shakespeare (five or six plays, including these two) and even though I've always loved his writing, there's a clear winner here. Julius Caesar is just a smarter, more complex piece of fiction.

Special Achievment Award:

I've read a lot of incredible books and authors over the last few months, but none of them have quite bowled me over like Ian Rankin has. Knots and Crosses stunned me with its brilliant psychological drama, while Hide and Seek blended Rankin's trademark lyricism with a riveting mystery plot. I already have the third volume, Tooth and Nail, and I'm eagerly awaiting my next trip into the seamy depths of Inspector Rebus's Edinburgh.

Special Achievment Award:

I may have had some major criticisms for The Fiery Cross, but Diana Gabaldon is still on the short list of my favorite authors and Jamie and Claire Fraser are arguably my favorite fictional characters of all time. I love the Outlander series so deeply that it's a little scary sometimes (I have actually caught myself thinking about the characters as though they're real).

So 2010 has been good. 2011 will be just as good. My first book of the year will be The Help, which is highly entertaining so far. I hope to progress farther in the Wheel of Time series, get caught up on the Outlander series and finally finish The Brothers Karamazov. Thanks for reading this year, and I hope you'll stay on for '11!

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