Best of 2003 (excruciatingly long as well)

Emma Comerford emmaco at
Fri Jan 2 18:31:26 EST 2004

OK, courtesy of my fairly rough reading journal (a habit I happily caught 
from the list in 2002), here's some of my best reads of 2003.

Favourite book: As usual, this is the hardest category to fill, so as I 
have done previously I've simply picked a great book that wasn't in other 
categories yet :) This year, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold is my 
choice. I thought it was one of the best fantasy books I read in 2003, with 
a rich background, interesting plot (that I didn't keep guessing at) and 
great characters, especially the development of Ista. It reminded my of 
Shards of Honour, which I also love. And I think I liked this book more 
because it was an unexpected pleasure - I enjoyed it more than Curse of 
Chalion, and more than the blurb lead me to believe I would.

A close runner up was Dorothy L Sayers' Gaudy Night. I think I liked this 
because it spoke to me on a personal level, and because it was a change 
from a lot of fantasy/SF I'd been reading! A thoroughly enjoyable read. 
Could be in Melissa's category of "Book that made me happy to be a reader".

It's actually been a great reading year for me, so I haven't a worst 
fiction book I can remember. Nothing that made me chuck a book across the 
room anyway - apart from articles and books in my field of work, where 
lunatics appear with sad regularity :)

However, Most Disappointing book: Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint. 
(this category depends on my expectations before reading the book - a book 
can be very good but still disappointing). I've been a De Lint fan for a 
long time (he's lasted much better than other authors of my teenage years) 
but I feel his most recent books haven't been as good. And I was 
disappointed in Spirits in the Wires, alhtough I can't quite remember why - 
I think it was the narrative style, as well as the predictable plot and 
characterisation. But as I said, this was due to my prior hopes, so I'm 
sure lots of people would enjoy the book!

Best New Series: Two winners this year, the first, Lindsey Davis' Didius 
Falco mysteries, a recommendation from Melissa's list of 2002 :) I didn't 
expect to enjoy a series set in Ancient Rome (have gone off historical 
novels recently) but I found these books very interesting and entertaining. 
The second series I discovered in 2003 - without the list for a change! - 
were Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries. These are lighthearted 
novels set in Australia of the 1920s. Greenwood appears to research the 
books carefully and it shows in the detailed backgrounds. Very fun reads! 
And there are a lot already written, which is always good.

Best Author I Had Kind Of Read But Never Properly Appreciated: Steven 
Brust. I settled in to read Brust's books properly this year, and he is now 
one of my favourite authors. I spent the first six months of 2003 reading 
and marvelling at the clever Vlad Taltos novels (read in publication order 
for those interested!). I'm now trying to buy them all up so I can convert 
the masses (i.e.: my long suffering friends). The second half of 2003 saw 
me re-reading and loving Phoenix Guards and reading for the first time the 
sequels (apart from Lord of Castle Black, which I can't afford in 
hardback). These are so much fun! I smile the whole way through.

Old Books Newly Found: the Antonia Forest novels. I think these are great! 
But am getting too tired (at 9 AM, how sad) to think about why...

Hallie's category Most 'Improved' Serial/Series also has the same winner 
for me, Fforde's Well of Lost Plots. Just read Hallie's post to see why. It 
had me laughing in the train - definitely worth while buying in trade 

Actually, this year has been a year of sequels/books set in same 
universe.  The Merlin Conspiracy, Abhorsen (Garth Nix) and Traitor's Moon 
(Lynn Flewelling) were all eagerly anticipated books of 2003, and all were 
great (Paladin of Souls, IMO, was better than the oriingal, which is why it 
got a special category). Merlin was wonderful, but it's still growing on 
me, as DWJ books tend to do. But I think it was one of the best books of 
the year for me. The other two books were more continuations of the 
previous books in the series, and as such were great in anticipated ways. I 
highly recommend these series to anyone who hasn't read them yet!

Unexpected Good Book: The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. I found this in a 
second hand bookstore (attracted by the great cover) and was pleasantly 
surprised. I really enjoyed the setting and the folklorish elements of the 
plot. And the characters.

Books I'd Heard About But Never Read (final category I promise): Emma 
Bull's War for the Oaks and Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. Both hard to acquire in 
Australia, but both worth the effort. I think I need to reread them before 
making any intelligent comments, but can still recommend them. I'm very 
happy to have them gracing my shelves!

Looking at my bookshelves, I'm still surprised at how many of my favourite 
authors have come from the list over the past few years. I'm truly grateful 
to have an internet connection when such a great list exists! Thank you all 
and have a wonderful 2004!

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