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.
Ladies and gents, Alex Bell!
Looking back at the books I’ve read this year, 2010 has been a bit patchy for me when it comes to reading. I’ve read more books than last year – partly because I look at more book blogs now and, thanks to Twitter, I’m more aware of what other people are reading and talking about. I’ve read some awful books – ones that I haven’t even been able to force myself to finish (and I really hate giving up on a book, but limited time demands it sometimes), but I have also read some truly brilliant books.
Some of my favourites include:
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn
The new covers make the Lady Julia Grey books look a bit like bodice-rippers but they are much, much more than that. This is the third book in the series, and I found all three of them to be brilliant mixtures of romance, mystery and just a touch of supernatural horror. There are two things that make this series great: Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane. Julia is one of my favourite heroines of all time because she is strong, independent, clever, ferociously capable and I basically want to be her. Brisbane is a fantastic male lead with his cool broodiness, his dry wit, and his smouldering sexiness. Their relationship is a joy to read about, especially as it progresses, and the mystery elements are deliciously macabre and really make use of the Victorian setting very well indeed. Deanna Raybourn is the only modern author I’ve read who I think can compare to the likes of Victoria Holt and Madeleine Brent when it comes to romantic suspense because there is real depth to her writing. The romance is solid. It is not built on the mere premise that ‘he was a man, and she was a woman – so they jumped into bed together at the first opportunity.’ The romance element of the Julia Grey books is not thinly disguised erotica or cardboard stereotypes – it is a proper love story about soul mates.
Knife by R J Anderson
I was intrigued by this book the moment I saw the front cover, produced by the legendary Brian Froud. Although it took me a couple of chapters to get into it, I ended up really enjoying. The story is told from the perspective of Knife, the titular fairy, and it’s this unique outlook that really made the book for me. The fairies live in a tree at the bottom of a garden and, although they usually make every effort to hide from humans, when teenage son, Paul, returns to the home after an accident that has put him in a wheelchair, Knife ends up forming a very special friendship with him. This is a very sweet story – and one that actually drew tears to my eyes a couple of times.
Drood by Dan Simmons
I adored this book. I think it’s probably the cleverest book I’ve read all year. I’m an avid Charles Dickens fan (if I lived nearer to Dickens World I would be in there all the time!), and this book is centred around the relationship between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. It’s extremely well-researched, and Victorian London is beautifully realised. I loved the unreliable narrator aspect with Wilkie Collins’s first person perspective, and the sinister mystery of the menacing figure known as Drood. This book reminded me of the film Amadeus, with its themes of genius, madness, hatred and envy, and its use of two real historical figures as the central characters.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I don’t think much needs saying about this book, really. I read it every Christmas (it’s only about 70 pages long), and every year I am struck again by the utter perfection of it. I savour every single word (Dickens’ descriptions of Victorian grocers and bakers at Christmas is particularly luscious). The story is perfectly constructed and perfectly written. Change anything about it, alter one word, and there would be diminishment. I don’t think I’d say the same of any other book I have ever read. I’ve seen several film versions over the years, and it always strikes me how faithful the script is to the text in the book. Much of it is exactly the same, word for word. How incredible that more than a hundred years on, even with the way language has changed, screenwriters want to keep the script in line with the words Charles Dickens originally wrote. With its overtly moral message, I wonder whether such a story could be written nowadays. People seem to be more interested in gritty realism or whatever. But I think this is a wise, noble little book – an example of how brilliant writing can be at its very best, and I think everyone should read it at least once.
There are several books I’m looking forward to reading next year, including:
Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn
The fourth Lady Julia Grey book with, I am pleased to note, a much more subtle front cover, meaning that I don’t have to feel embarrassed being seen with the book in public.
Rebel by R J Anderson
The sequel to Knife.
Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler
This book has been on my wish list for ages – in part because of its most gorgeous cover. I got it for Christmas and am very much looking forward to starting it. Hopefully the story will live up to the front cover.
Cuckoo by Julia Crouch
Described as a psychological thriller exploring the nature of female friendship and stolen identity, this book, and its striking cover, caught my attention and I’m looking forward to checking it out next year.
And, finally, my own new book, published in early February next year, Lex Trent Fighting with Fire
I’m not looking forward to reading this, obviously, since I wrote the thing and have read it about a hundred times already, but I’m very much looking forward to it being published. This is the sequel to Lex Trent versus The Gods, and it’s easily my favourite of all my published books to date. Expect quests, cowboys, sunken ships, fire-breathing rabbits, magic swords and dragons. And cheating. Lots and lots of cheating.
Happy Smugglivus, Alex!