Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 30
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: The very awesome Karen Mahoney, British debut author, close friend and Honorary Book Smuggler.
Recent work: The short story The Spirit Jar in the anthology Kiss Me Deadly, reviewed HERE by Ana. Her first full length novel, the excellent The Iron Witch will be published later this month.
Ladies and gents, we are proud to present you Kaz Mahoney!
Thank you, dear Book Smugglers, for having me over to help you celebrate Smugglivus. I think this is fast becoming one of my favourite annual celebrations, and I think you might need to trademark it and start producing merchandise. You could be onto a winner!
2010 has brought me so many wonderful books to read and authors discovered, and it was also the year that I took a hard look at myself and my reading habits as far as the diversity of my book choices went. With the help of bloggers such as Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers, Ari from Reading in Color and others, I’ve become more aware than ever of my choices. To be honest, I’ve always tried to read widely – and to read consciously – when it comes to books by and about POC, but 2010 is probably the year where I took that into the ‘public arena’ a little more. I hope to continue this throughout 2011 and beyond, as I have a ton of great POC books piled up next to my bed (my favourite reading spot)!
Anyway, without further delay here are my…
Favourite Books of 2010:
THE DEMON’S COVENANT by Sarah Rees Brennan
It is no secret that I loved The Demon’s Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan’s debut novel – it was my top read of 2009 – but could Book Two of her trilogy, The Demon’s Covenant, measure up? Would I be disappointed? The answers are: Yes, it does measure up. And no, it does not disappoint. Book two has more to get your teeth into, with multiple plot threads and shenanigans going on. This is a Good Thing. My interest never flagged and I read and read, one night staying up ’til almost 3am to finish because I had to know what happened! I admit to missing Nick as the POV character, but Mae’s voice quickly won me over – and I can see why it wouldn’t have worked to have Nick ‘narrating’ any more stories. (Have you read the first book? If you have, then you’ll know what I mean.) I loved seeing more of the Goblin Market, and we learn much more about the demons Anzu and Lianan. The magicians’ Circles are expanded upon and, really, the whole world that Sarah created in Book One just expands here – very exciting!
I absolutely CANNOT wait to read the final part of the trilogy, and it will be interesting to see how the book works from Sin’s POV. THE DEMON’S SURRENDER can’t come soon enough for me, and I’m dying to see the UK cover and compare it to the US one (above).
LIAR by Justine Larbalestier
I’m including this – although, strictly, it’s a 2009 release – because I read it in 2010 and that’s when the paperback came out (just recently). I don’t know where to start with this incredible book. I mean, seriously… how can you possibly sum up a work of genius? Okay, the answer is: I can’t. I also can’t say too much for fear of spoiling anything (and the novel will be totally spoiled if you’re not careful about what you read online before you check it out). It’s sort of a YA-detective-whodunnit-contemporary-OMGWTFBBQ!!!1! psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator. I loved Micah – her voice and intensity were beautifully rendered. And yes, I think you can love an unreliable narrator. If you read carefully, you’ll see that Justine Larbalestier gives plenty of clues throughout the text and I have a strong feeling that this is a book that will reward multiple readings (in fact, I’m tempted to make this a re-read for 2011).
I think that LIAR is the kind of novel that should be studied in schools – it is just that good and that important. Is it challenging at times? Yes. Do the twists and turns make your head spin? Sure. But is it awesome? Oh hell, yeah! *g* I still feel disappointed that such an amazing book was given such a terrible first cover (you’ll remember that it’s one of the whitewashed covers from recent years), and I hate that that detracts from the content of the book because people talk about it for the wrong reasons. Not that it’s ‘wrong’ to talk about whitewashing – I think we should talk about that – but it’s just a shame that the writing and the story can become overshadowed.
BLEEDING VIOLET by Dia Reeves
Bleeding Violet made me seriously re-evaluate all my previous 5-star ratings on Goodreads – it was just that good. Dia Reeves’ debut novel (OMG!! DEBUT novel… how is that even possible?!) is so incredible; so brave; so unique; so heartbreaking; so funny; so deceptively beautifully written; so magical; so crazy; so bizarre but real; that I can’t help but compare other paranormal debuts to it. Ana introduced me to this book – as she does so many awesome books – and I’m so glad that she did.
I’m also now thoroughly depressed, because I will never in a million years write a book this good. *shakes head*
I’d compare my reaction to Bleeding Violet as something like when I first read Jonathan Carroll at the age of 16. The top of my head came off back then, and 20 years later Dia Reeves had the same effect on me. The good news is that her sophomore novel, the brand new Slice of Cherry, measures up in terms of writing/craft, originality, and outlandish characters.
THE RED TREE by Caitlín R. Kiernan
I’m a huge fan of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s work – I even subscribe to her monthly digest of original (adult) fiction – and I highly recommend her latest novel, The Red Tree. Although the cover makes it look like an urban fantasy, it’s more of a modern gothic tale involving the haunting (or is it? *cue spooky music*) of an author called Sarah Crowe when she attempts to move on from an old girlfriend and goes to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. While there, she finds an unfinished manuscript written by a parapsychologist obsessed with the old oak tree growing somewhere on the property.
The novel is told as a combination of manuscript pages, Sarah’s own journals, as well as other materials including pages of her fiction. It’s one of my favourite novels EVER, and I’d love to see more people pick it up now that it’s available in mass-market. Yes, it’s scary at times, but not in a ‘horror story’ kind of way. I found it hard to put down, and towards the end I was racing through it to find out how it ends. Also, I had a really creepy sort of experience while I was reading a section of it… See if The Red Tree works its darkly delicious magic on you, too. Oh, and there’s a cool page of ‘evidence’ to go with the book on CRK’s website.
A WILD LIGHT by Marjorie M. Liu
The third book of the ‘Hunter Kiss’ adult urban fantasy series, and I have to say that, once again, it was my favourite so far. Here we get some real answers about Maxine Kiss as she gradually loses her humanity in the face of the battle she is born to fight. I love her relationship with her soulmate, Grant – an interesting and multilayered character, rather than just eye-candy. I really admire Liu’s slow process of revelation with these books; it’s like peeling back layers one by one to reveal the true depth of this richly created world. I also have to mention ‘the boys’ – Maxine’s demon companions; her family (sort of). By day they are invulnerable tattoos on her body. By night, they peel away from her skin and fight by her side. What. A. Concept. Seriously, as a writer I love this! Especially Zee, my favourite, who is the leader of this miniature-but-deadly demonic army.
‘Armor of Roses’, a Maxine Kiss novella in INKED by Marjorie M. Liu
Probably the best urban fantasy novella I’ve read, this even beats my previous favourite (Marjorie’s novella in the WILD THING anthology; the story that introduced us to Maxine Kiss and her demonic ‘boys’). ‘Armor of Roses’ stands alone quite well, despite happening somewhere between books two and three of the series, and has a fabulous time-travel element.
MAGIC BLEEDS by Ilona Andrews
Book 4 in the continually improving Kate Daniels series, although possibly not quite as good as the near-perfect Magic Strikes (the previous book in the series), but very VERY close. Definitely one of my top reads of 2010. This is the book with the pay-off we’ve all been waiting for with Kate and Curran’s relationship, and it’s just so well written and satisfying. I simply cannot wait for the next book, MAGIC SLAYS.
Older books that I fell in love with in 2010:
THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whalen Turner
Thanks – again – to Ana, I fell in love with all the books in The Queen’s Thief series, but I have a real soft spot for book two, The Queen of Attolia. I think this is where I fell in love with Eugenides, just about the same time that Megan Whalen Turner broke my heart into a thousand pieces with her incredible portrayal of one young man’s loss, loyalty and endurance. The King of Attolia comes a very close second, and I love how MWT turns everything on its head by writing almost the entire book from the POV of a brand new character. It’s a genius move – one that enables us to see Eugenides through fresh eyes – and I really can’t quite believe how well it works and just how good these books are.
I’d advise anyone who might have read the first in the series, The Thief, and felt that it was good-but-not-great to keep reading. You won’t be disappointed.
The Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison
Just like my experience of reading The Thief and not immediately feeling I needed to read on, something similar happened with the first of Harrison’s Rachel Morgan urban fantasy series. I liked Dead Witch Walking, but I didn’t love it. Not enough to rush straight onto the second book, anyway, back when I first read it. I’m still not sure what it is that felt… lacking… the first time I tried to read this series. It’s not that I didn’t admire Kim Harrison’s writing or her stellar worldbuilding (The Hollows is incredible!), but I couldn’t connect with something in the text – I’d be interested to go back and re-read Book One someday to see if I can figure it out.
However, I finally picked up Book Two and now I can’t stop reading! I’ve raced through the first five of Rachel’s adventures, and am trying to read the last couple so I can pick up Pale Demon this year. I don’t know what has changed, but I’m suddenly – finally – in love with Rachel Morgan and her world.
Books I should have read but still haven’t – and resolve to read in 2011:
THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss
I can’t believe that I still haven’t read this book. Not only has Ana raved about it to me for a shameful length of time without me taking action, but I actually read Pat Rothfuss’ blog and love it. This is definitely the year I read it! *makes solemn vow* And the good thing about waiting so long is that I’ll be able to go straight onto THE WISE MAN’S FEAR in March.
GRACELING and FIRE by Kristin Cashore
Another author whose blog I read regularly and love, and yet I haven’t actually read her books. I started Graceling once, a long time ago, but couldn’t get into it – though I fully admit that was probably because I was on a plane at the time and was too nervous to concentrate. 2011 is going to be my Year of Reading Kristin Cashore’s books. Does Bitterblue come out this year, too? If so, I might read all three back-to-back!
Favourite Films of 2010:
I only have two nominations in this category.
Inception is a mind-bending and mind-blowing movie all in one slick package, and fronted by probably my favourite performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn’t watch many films in 2010, and I hope to see more this year, but I’m finding myself getting more satisfaction from TV shows at the moment. However, this was definitely one of the good ones – and one of the only ones I went to the cinema to see.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One is, without doubt, the best Harry Potter film to date. At least, in my opinion. The only way it can be topped is if the Deathly Hallows Part Two manages it, but I’m not sure even the true finale can beat the emotional experience that this film created for me. I loved how it seemed more like an urban fantasy story, and I really enjoyed the section of the movie where Harry and Hermione are on the run alone. There are scenes that just broke my heart and really, genuinely moved me. I fell just a little more in love with Hermione, and I think Emma Watson has grown so much as an actress. She is the heart of these stories, and I love that about them.
Favourite TV Shows of 2010:
So I finally saw Dexter, watching all five seasons (60 episodes) back-to-back over a period of about two months. I always knew I’d love it, but I just never got started with it – and being mildly (ha!) OCD I didn’t want to watch parts of it or jump onboard partway through the run. I decided a long time ago to just wait until the majority of DVD box sets were available at reasonable prices, and then blast through the lot in one go. I am so glad I did it this way! How did people watching weekly manage to wait for each episode? I would’ve chewed off my fingers with the crazy anticipation!
This is now one of my all-time favourite TV shows, and once again reminds me of how much I love Michael C. Hall (I was a huge Six Feet Under fan, back in the day), but it also introduced me to my new favourite actress: Jennifer Carpenter. She plays Dexter’s adopted sister, Debra Morgan, and I freakin’ adore her! What an amazing role she had the chance to get her teeth into. It’s going to be a long time before there’s another character in a contemporary TV series that I love quite as much as I love Deb. Strong roles for women, especially in a male-dominated police environment like Homicide = win! (Shout out for Leuitenant Maria LaGuerta, too, who I admired all the way through.)
The Vampire Diaries
It’s no surprise to see me listing this seriously sexy and well written vampire show here. Most people know how much I love TVD, and it’s honestly not just because of my huge crush on bad-boy Damon – the deliciously wicked Ian Somerhalder (though that doesn’t exactly hurt *g*). This is the standout new TV series currently running, imho, and for anyone who thinks it’s just a small-screen Twilight… please think again and give it another chance. Sure, the first few episodes of Season One weren’t anything to write home about, but it didn’t take long for the show to find its feet and pick up a tremendous pace. What. A. Show. It’s the writing I love so much – the risks that the creators take and the fact that nobody is safe! I sort of love and hate that at the same time – wondering who might die or get turned into a vampire.
The Vampire Diaries is all about the cliffhangers, and the one that we were left with between Seasons One and Two was almost unbearable. Also, right here we have a popular and commercial TV show with lots of strong female characters – something that is very welcome, especially considering how the target audience is teenage girls and young women. Way to represent! I’m proud to be the person responsible for turning Ana onto this awesome series.
Bring on 2011:
So what does 2011 bring for me in terms of books I’m looking forward to reading? Too many, but here are just a few to add to the ones I’ve already mentioned above (The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan, Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews):
I’m going to cheat by saying ALL of the books by my fellow Elevensies, a group of MG and YA debut novelists. That covers a whole lot of books, and you should check out the community if you’ve not done so before!
Also worthy of note this spring are two anthologies I’m particularly looking forward to:
TEETH, edited by the incomparable team of Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling and WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN, edited by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner. I love anthologies, and these two in particular stand out for me in the coming year…
A year in which we have not one, but two new Melissa Marr novels is a year to be celebrated – DARKEST MERCY, the final book in the Wicked Lovely series will soon be published, and also we have her first adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, to look forward to:
2010 saw the release of my second short story about a teen vampire called Moth, in the KISS ME DEADLY anthology (though my story, ‘Falling to Ash,’ was practically a novella!). I also had an essay published alongside a whole host of YA authors in the Smart Pop anthology devoted to The Vampire Diaries, A VISITORS GUIDE TO MYSTIC FALLS:
In 2011 my debut novel will be released… In fact, it’s out this month as it got moved forward from February to January. Please believe me when I say that I am filled with equal parts excitement and terror. The Iron Witch involves alchemy, dark elves, and a girl who has magical iron tattoos that give her super-strength – I had such a good time writing this story, and I really hope people enjoy it.
To celebrate the publication of THE IRON WITCH on January 20th in the UK and January 25th 2011 in the US, I’m giving away a signed copy to one commenter (open to all).
I wish all of the readers over here a Happy Smugglivus, and to Ana and Thea: thanks again for having me! Keep smuggling! *ninja*
Thank you Karen and Happy Smugglivus to you too!
As for the giveaway….
Karen is happy to offer a signed copy of The Iron Witch to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment here – the contest is open to ALL and will run till Saturday Jan 8th 11:59pm (PST). One entry per person, please. We will randomly pick the winner and post it on our January 9th stash. Good luck!