Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 26
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.
Who: Sarwat Chadda, British author of the fabulous Billi SanGreal books, featuring a teenage female Templar Knight. The firs book in the series is called Devil’s Kiss.
Recent Work: Dark Goddess, reviewed by Ana HERE.
Ladies and gents, please give a warm welcome to Sarwat with his fave reads of 2010!
Double-edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood
All I knew about this book before I read it was that it had the ‘knights of No-where’ in it. Didn’t know what they were or who, but the name alone was enough for me to buy the book. Yes, I am that shallow.
I love urban fantasy, especially set in London because I’m a home-boy at heart. The concepts behind it are amazing, parallel worlds, the knights who guard the paths, the secrets stored in the old buildings and the idea of the risk you take passing through.
The hero is 16 year old Finmere Tingewick Smith, abandoned on the steps of the Old Bailey as a baby and brought up by mysterious benefactors. Swordfights, fate of the multiverse and the old men who were once glorious warriors and would be so again. These old men are the most poignant characters in the book, prematurely aged because they passed back and forth between the worlds and the best, most moving bit of the book is when they are given the opportunity to be young again, but must choose which one of them gets this second chance.
There’s loads of ‘jump out of your chair and punch the air with a mighty “Yes! Get stuck in, lads!”’ so any fans of UnLundun or Neverwhere should get this book immediately. The only disappointment is that’s it’s just the first book in a series, but the tale is complete within itself.
I don’t know about you but English sea-side towns in winter are scary places. The broadwalks are all closed up, the funfairs under-wraps and the cold wind and fog never lets up. They’re bad enough in real life so the horror goes off the scale when you add demons and ancient battles against the darkest evils.
The book opens with the sacrifice of an innocent child and then moves forward in time to join Jake Harker, who discovers the nightmares he reads about in his old comic books are very real and so desperate to hunt him down. The book captures the terror of being relentlessly hunted and the slow revealing of one’s destiny. The twist of who Jake really is just blew me away and you will not see it coming.
The bad guys are beautifully sinister and their internal rivalry makes them real and believable, some petty, others grand, all evil.
I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you by Ally Carter
Oh, how I love the Gallagher girls. I know I’m like coming to the series way way after everyone else but a spy school for girls, well as a father to two daughters I want my kids to apply as soon as they can.
Cammie is our heroine and (thank God) is not some soppy, morose emo who obsesses about her ‘perfect’ boyfriend. Okay, she obsesses a bit but that involves breaking into his house, lying through her teeth, discussions about removing his friends (with extreme prejudice) and a hilarious escape at the local dance. Her friends kick ass too. Yes, we like the educational values promoted by the Gallagher Academy.
Loads of in-jokes, like the discovery of fingerprints during manicure sessions, the invention of Velcro and the truth behind the Kennedy assassination.
What’s great is Cammie isn’t the obvious ‘star of the setting. She’s almost invisible, not as cool as her other friends, or has some ‘special’ destiny. She’s the most normal of the crew. Well, as normal as you can be if you’ve been trained in espionage from birth and your parents were two operatives for the CIA. It’s great seeing a girl who can defuse nukes with a hat-pin struggle with dating, make-up and how much to spill about that ‘first kiss’.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Beautiful. Macabre. Violent and surreal. It’s a weird, darkly fantastic journey that seems to be about a young man in 1800’s New Mexico but is actually something more like Dante’s Inferno.
On the one hand you feel truly inspired reading a book that is the best work of one of the greatest writers ever, but then despairing when you realise there is no way you will ever create anything to touch even a sentence of his.
This book is the closest thing to pure magic.
What am I looking forward to? There’s a lot of catching up to do.
Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix
We’re all fans of girls who kick-ass in this house. What’s great about Cindy’s books is that we’re getting out of that mock-European medieval world 99.999% of all fantasy inhabit. What’s so weird is that fantasy is (IMHO) so familiar. Elves? Check? Magicains with pointy hats and beards? Knights and dragons and maidens in cold, dank castles? Check check check. We’ve so been there. Fantasy is meant to be about breaking out of the boundaries when, ironically, it’s one of the most cliché-bound genres out there.
Thank God then for Silver Phoenix. I don’t know anything about Chinese mythology of the setting and I think that’s true for most western readers. Isn’t that the fantasy we want? Something new, unfamiliar, fantastic?
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantell
Not YA but who cares? I’m really getting into the Tudor period. Henry VIII and the trouble with his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, give us some of the most amazing characters in British history with burning, executions, invasions and power politics that have profoundly affected the country ever since. It goes back to the days when politics was an extreme sport and getting out of it alive was a privilege granted to a rare few.
Historical fiction is my first love so it’s a great treat to have a book that’s so wide ranging, so exciting and so well-written to lose myself in.
Rachel Hawkins Hex Hall series
Some books just sound like fun and these are some of them. Enough grim angst and soul-searching!
It sounds like Rachel through in everything but the kitchen sink, then decided to chuck that in to be sure. Witches, vampire-room-mates, ghosts and school-bound mysteries. All the things that I love.
Thank you, Sarwat!