[DWJ] Best Books of 2010 (A.M. Winslow)

A.M. Winslow debrisoftheages at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Mar 5 13:25:19 EST 2011

These are, that is, books I read for the first time in 2010 (with the exception of the plugged one).  I'm covering a little of the same ground and disagreeing elsewhere, but hope it proves helpful anyway.  It should be noted that even when I say negatives about a book -- well, if I didn't like it at all, I wouldn't have read it all the way through.  I'm picky, and put down books I don't enjoy.
Best Books:
The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud.  This is the prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy – which I would rate as the best trilogy ever written.  I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Stroud – he comes second only to Diana Wynne Jones.
Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.  For being awesome.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (and its sequel Mr. Monster) by Dan Wells.  The title is terrible, the cover doubly-so (especially in the UK; the US one isn’t bad), but these books are incredibly gripping (and well-researched.  This is actually a topic I know something about, and I bow to his expertise).  The violence is appalling, but in a bearable sort of way – I can’t read Stephen King because of his violence, but I can read these.  Also, the younger protagonist means there isn’t a lot of sexual content (and certainly nothing explicit).  High recommendation.
Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge.  This is my favourite of Hardinge’s books so far – while Fly by Night has beautiful language it, like Gullstruck Island, has quite a weak plot and execution thereof, along with unmemorable characters.  But Verdigris Deep – while it has a little of that – is, I think, much more strongly constructed.  My theory is that this is because she didn’t world-build as much for this one, and so spent her mental power on other matters. 
Changes by Jim Butcher (and, indeed, all the Dresden Files series).
Enjoyed Books: 
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers.  This is the first in a series.  I’ve only read the first two, but they’re quite good, although not brilliant.
The MagicThief books by Sarah Prineas (the third one came out in 2010).  Again, not brilliant but wholly enjoyable.  The protagonist hardly ever speaks, which I find intriguing.
Wizard at Work by Vivian Vande Velde.  This is just a rather amusing and brief set of connected short stories which makes fun of the genre in a gentle sort of way.
Thief of Midnight by Catherine Butzen – wholly enjoyable and using unusual mythology for the current hype, but slightly shallow in content.
The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker.  I was a little disappointed in this – it somehow didn’t feel like a whole book; it more floated on the surface – but it was very enjoyable nevertheless.
The Wonderful O by James Thurber – this is just a very brief book wherein he plays with language wonderfully.  See also his The Thirteen Clocks.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  I really didn’t expect to like this – but I did.  Yes, it read in places like a teenaged fantasy.  Yes, it was in a dystopia (a genre I particularly despise), but it pushed through and was enjoyable.  I don’t really want to buy it or read it again, but I was glad to read it once.
Plugged Books: The Secret Country trilogy (The Secret Country, the Hidden Land, the Whim of the Dragon) – best portal fantasy ever.
The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills.  The first book was merely mediocre.  The second book took the characters from the first book and caricatured them unbearably.  For the court wizard genre, I’d recommend instead A Bad Spell in Yurt by C. Dale Brittain (but less so its sequels)
Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge.  I really liked her first two books, but I found this one incredibly dull.  Only my love of her previous writing kept me chugging through it, convinced it had to get better.  It didn’t.
Mortal Coil by Derek Landy.  This is the latest instalment of the Skulduggery Pleasant series.  The first book was recommended to me and I read it and enjoyed it.  It was cheesy and there were a few painful moments (like the torture scene.  Trust me, the protagonist wasn’t the only one in agony), but it was fun – and, after all, it was the author’s first book.  Well, Mr. Landy is plugging them out very quickly – one per year or in this case, 6 months . . . and it shows.  Not only is he not improving with practice, he’s going downhill.
 Nation by Terry Pratchett.  Actually, I couldn't finish this one -- and I love Pratchett's writing.  The problem (one of the problems) was that he kept making this sweeping and -- in his view, no doubt deeply insightful) theological observations and statements which -- as a theology -- were obviously and painfully ignorant.  I kept thinking -- if only you'd read Kierkegaard or Barth or T.F. Torrance you'd understand and stop making elementary mistakes I'd expect from a first year (if that!); if you don't understand something, don't just make it up; that's harmful, not insightful.  And if that weren't enough -- I didn't find the book even remotely interesting.  This is really my one totally negative review.

"On a canvas weird and wild but grand,
He painted the face with a master hand."
        -- Two Pictures


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