Best of 2008 and New Year’s Resolution for 2009

A lot of people are posting a year end post for 2008. It's nice to see people looking back at the books they read for the year and picking out their favorite reads, and it's interesting to see what they picked. I thought it would be a good thing to try myself because with it recorded, I can look back in later years and see what my tastes were like.

Out of a total of 77 books read this year, very few got into my best list, but book ratings are highly subjective.  I just went with my gut and rated them according to how I felt about the book as soon as I finished reading them. These lists are compiled from ratings I put down in my private notes.

All the links to my reviews here are to my Livejournal.

The Books that Blew Me Away  – These books are those I gave top marks to when I first read them. It's a very hard list to get onto because I have to feel like I'm falling in love and cannot be parted from the book for it to get on this list. Only three got on it this year.

Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away – These came very close to getting top marks from me. This is a personal thing, but the books above I would put down and then obssessively think about when I could pick them up again. The books below, I didn't feel as consumed by the book, but still felt really impressed by them.

  • Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (my review)
  • Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I need to review this when I have the book in my hands)
  • The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (review coming soon)

Books I Really Liked/ Keepers. These each had several moments where I loved the book and overall I think these are books that deserve to be loved and read by others, but for some reason or other these didn't get into the top 7. I still consider these keepers, and all these authors are pretty much autobuys/ must read backlist authors. There are 19 of these books this year (Linnea Sinclair's name comes up a lot here, I was reading her backlist in 2008):

  • The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong (my review)
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (my review)
  • Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy (my review)
  • Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Bk 1) by Patricia Briggs (my review)
  • Easy Freedom by Liz Berry (my review)
  • Jinx by Jennifer Estep (my review)
  • Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (my review pt 1, pt 2)
  • The Good Neighbors by Holly Black (my review)
  • The Nanny by Melissa Nathan (my review)
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, Bk 1) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (my review)
  • Burndive by Karin Lowachee (my review)
  • An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly, Bk 3) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook (my review)

 

And for my New Year's Resolution – it's the same resolution as last year , to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 - 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – let's get it back up to 100!!

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Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy

I started the second of C.E. Murphy's series (the Negotiator trilogy) earlier this year, but her first book, Urban Shaman was on my TBR as well. I just read it, and I think I may actually like this series even more.

Joanne Walker is a mechanic with with the police force with both a Cherokee and a Celtic background. She went through the police academy but never used her training as an officer, content to use just her mechanic skills. At the start of this book, she was on the plane coming back from her mother's funeral when she sees a woman in trouble. As soon as she's off the plane, she grabs a cab to help the woman and runs into the Wild Hunt. This sets off a series of events which reveal Joanne's shamanic powers and a whole supernatural world.

This was action packed – one thing follows another story and Joanne goes through a lot – battered from one side and another, and drawing on her new powers to heal herself.  I liked how Joanne uses her mechanic background with her powers – imagining her body like a car and fixing things by using car analogies. It was engrossing to see what would happen next, but there was also some hints of Joanne's past and what Joanne is that was interesting as well. Another strong aspect was the secondary characters – they all had depth and interacted in believable ways with Joanne, from her sidekick cabbie, to her annoyed boss, to her coworkers. It will be nice to see how these relationships develop throughout the series. Looking forward to reading the next two books.

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Heart of Stone by C. E. Murphy

I started reading this book because it was the book of the month at the League of Reluctant Adults' blog. On top of that, C. E. Murphy has been on my list of authors I wanted to read because I read a short story by her in Winter Moon and really liked the writing.

This is book 1 in a trilogy that centers around Margrit Knight, a hardworking lawyer working for LegalAid, and a gargoyle named Alban. At first Margrit lives in the "normal" world, unaware of any kind of paranormal happenings in New York City, but after Alban speaks to her, she suddenly becomes involved in not just Alban's situation (believed to be a murderer) but in others as well. I found Margrit's character believable as someone I'd meet in this world, and someone admirable as well. Margrit is just that type of person that's has strong convictions about helping others, and she is very good at that. There were several places in the book where despite the fact that she's in a position of weakness, she never allows that to be an issue when she speaks. She always manages to convey strength with whom ever she is dealing with, and I really liked that! At the league blog when we were discussing themes, I suggested that one of those was feminism, and tmthomas posted a really interesting comment about formal vs informal power. In either case, it was something refreshing to see. I felt like this is the kind of strong heroine I like. 

On top of that, the secondary characters were quite well written as well. Margrit's on-again, off-again lover, her roommates, her boss.. they all played understandable roles of people concerned for Margrit although unaware of what was really going on. There were understandable conflicts that came out of this. Then there are the paranormal/supernatural/Other creatures. Murphy has some new twists to the conventional myths and also populates the world with some beings not usually found in urban fantasy. These "people" feel dangerous and unknown but also  fascinating. Particularly during their interactions with Margrit. I'm looking forward to finding out more about them through Margrit's dealings with them in the next two books. And – the city. I have to say, it does feel like New York to me when I read this book. An everyday, yeah I live here, New York.

So basically – good, above average read. I wasn't staying up all night to read it, I took my time (about 5 days?), but the writing was skilled, I did enjoy myself, and I felt quite satisfied when I finished.

Here's an excerpt from Heart of Stone 

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