Putting together my top ten for this year was certainly a challenge considering that I read far fewer books than usual. I did, however, read an exceptional amount of manga, since they can be read in an hour or less, which is nice when you’re on a tight schedule. A couple of those even made the list for reasons I will expound upon in the summaries.
The good thing about the books I read this year is that I found most of them quite enjoyable. With the exception of the odd let down here and there, I’ve been satisfied with my reading choices, particularly with the 2010 releases that surpassed my expectations. Best of all? Everything on the list has a review this go-round. Hooray for that!
And now for the TRE top ten of 2010.
Please note that, as usual, this list pertains to any book that I’ve read for the first time during the calendar year, regardless of whether or not it was released in that year.
For my first Pyr novel, I was lucky enough to read this fantastic adventure of time travel, alternate history, and wild science. The details in this book are what make it so fascinating–Mark Hoddard has created a rich new world full of curiosities that are both familiar and strange at the same time. This made it difficult to decide which way I wanted the story to go. On the one hand, I hoped everything would get sorted out and returned to normal. On the other, well…it wouldn’t still be the place I’d come to enjoy if that were to happen. But in any case, this was a fun read rife with intriguing inventions and unsettling conspiracies. [Read the Review]
I chose this manga more for the ideas that it addresses than for the stories themselves (though they’re wonderful and entertaining as well). The stories are episodic with a loose arc tying them together–a common manga storytelling technique and not notable in itself. The themes in Natsume’s Book of Friends, however, tend to address emotions and include such things as loneliness, friendship, belonging, trust, etc. Nothing that hasn’t been done before, sure, but somehow, at the end of almost every story, I find myself all weepy. As far as I’m concerned, any series that can consistently bring me to tears must be doing something right, and it doesn’t hurt that Nyanko-sensei is downright hilarious. [Read the Review]
I’ve only read a few urban fantasy titles, and so far Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series has been my favorite. Chess Putnam isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, and I like that about her. She doesn’t consider herself tough–she’s relieved if she can get through the day–and with her substance abuse and other personal issues, she’s about as far from what you’d consider a typical hero as you can get. Besides that, ghosts are my favorite paranormal subject, and Kane has worked up a pretty interesting lore to explain their presence. An entertaining and quick read with a ghost that gave me chills. [Read the Review]
If I were writing a top ten manga list for the year, Ooku would be leading in the number one slot. This alternate history is at once thought provoking, emotionally rending, and extremely well-imagined. There are so many issues brought up in the first five volumes alone that it astounds me. Fumi Yoshinaga has done something here that is definitely worth reading. The gender and political issues created by her re-imagined Japan provide endless material for thought, and trying to identify with each of the characters in turn is challenging and often heartbreaking. I have no idea how many volumes this manga will reach in the end, but I intend to read every one of them. [Read Review One & Review Two]
This was one of several first novels that I read in 2010, but it was the first that made me sit back and realize that all year I’d been reading books with female narrators that I truly enjoyed. Female characters are usually a topic of complaint for me, but I can count seven books on this list alone that have female main characters who not only kept my attention but made me admire them. And before you think this strange, just consider that, as a woman, I hold female narrators up to a pretty stiff standard. Or, in other words, they’d better be believable and not the least bit whiny when they shouldn’t be. Who knew that I’d like Jane Ellsworth, particularly in a style of novel that’s a far cry from my usual reading fare. But I’m very, very glad that I read this book, as I found it enjoyable all around. Jane was not only realistic to me, but also strong, intelligent, and talented. Hers was a lovely story perfect for a relaxing afternoon. [Read the Review]
This is the book that pleased me most by meeting my expectations and then some. After anticipating The Greyfriar for so long based solely on a vague description on SFscope, I was ecstatic when the blend of vampires and steampunk proved to be exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve never been hugely into vampires, nor has the hype from the paranormal teen quarter improved my opinion on the matter, but Clay and Susan Griffith have allowed me to put all those opinions aside and focus on their story. So, I’m happy to say I knew it would be great! and count it among my end-of-year favorites. [Read the Review]
If you’re ready for something thought provoking and tilted slightly toward the abstract end of the spectrum (but not TOO much), Natsuo Kirino is the author for you. Real World has introduced me to what makes her work so gripping, and I hear this one isn’t even the best of her work available in English. While possibly not for everyone, I found Real World to be a little strange and a little terrifying, but always fascinating. Her previous novel, Out, is on my list for 2011. [Read the Review]
This was the book that surprised me the most. I went into it with some trepidation, for I hadn’t the slightest idea what to expect beyond some sort of romantic subplot or other, and I came out a fan of the characters, the author, and most everything in general. There was quite a bit of action packed into this book, and a lot of great details about the setting and the magic. If the second book proves as good as the first, then I’ll be a very happy reader indeed. [Read the Review]
Of the first novels I read this year, this one was by far the most unique. Explaining why is somewhat difficult. It’s more of a feeling that can’t be described in words. When I think of this book, I just feel…relaxed? Content? Maybe those descriptors are as good as any. Reading A Redemption in Indigo was simply a pleasant experience, and the folktale style of the story leaves a lingering enchantment. This book is true gold. [Read the Review]
Anytime I read a Carol Berg book, especially when it’s a January release, it’s almost like rigging the results. It will inevitably make slot one on the end-of-year review. But you know, I don’t feel bad about that. I’ve yet to read a Berg book that didn’t deserve to make the list, and I don’t ever expect to. The Spirit Lens intrigued me from beginning to end–and what an end. All of my expectations were turned upside down, and I’m patiently waiting until next week so I can finally see what happens next. The first was thoroughly engrossing with unexpected twists, and I look forward to seeing the characters from a new point of view in the next volume. [Read the Review]
And that’s it for 2010. I’m looking forward to another great year of reading in 2011. Here it comes….