Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My #BestReads2011

I both read and listened to almost 50 books this year (49 if you want to get right down to the nitty-gritty facts), and while I enjoyed each one--what's the point of finishing a book you don't like?--some stood out more than others. John Wiswell of The Bathroom Monologues came up with the #bestreads2011 blog-hop, so I decided to share my favorites here. When you finish looking at my choices, head over to John's post to see what books others have chosen as their favorites of the year. I think you'll be hard-pressed to walk away without the itch to check out at least one title.

Of the 49 books I read this year, I chose five as my favorites (as well as another for an honorable mention). Without further ado, here they are, presented in the order I read them:

1. Hidden Mickey 2: It All Started... by Nancy Temple Rodrigue and David W. Smith : I love Disney, and more specifically, Disneyland. With this series based at Disneyland, I figured it would be a slam dunk. The first book was a bit clunky, but I enjoyed it well enough to move right on to this second book. And I'm glad I did. It had a much more dangerous plot than the first one, and the slight hint of the supernatural was fun to read about. This one was more character-based than puzzle-based like the first one, but the puzzles in this one were fun to follow. Even though the characters were more "out there" than in the first book, they felt a lot more real. It was also fun to spend a much more intimate time in Disneyland. I really felt like I was there at times. (Of course, I've been to the same places as the characters many, many times.) The part of the book that took place on the Jungle Cruise was especially fun--it took me back to my days as a skipper navigating the rivers of the world and cracking corny jokes. I highly recommend this book. It was an easy choice for my top five of the year.

2. The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger : This year I discovered, and this was the first book I downloaded. (Actually, it was free, but I signed up for the service soon after finishing it.) The voice acting was delightful--it really brought the characters to life. As for the story, it grabbed me by the throat right from the beginning and didn't let go. It had some wonderful lines throughout, to go along with the sparkling, but increasingly sad, story. If you enjoy speculative fiction at all (or even if you don't and simply like a great story), give this one a read (or listen).

3. The Child Thief by Brom : Wow, from beginning to end, this one was dark. It was right up my alley. It's based on the Peter Pan story, but Brom takes the legend and makes it his own. There are many familiar pieces showcased, but it's all turned on its head with a liberal dash of new characters/situations. This is not a Disney's not even the same tone as the original Barrie story, and that one was pretty dark if you peered close enough. This one is full of violence, swearing, and death upon death. If you're a fan of the legend of Peter Pan, and you enjoy a healthy heaping of darkness in your fiction, you won't be disappointed. If you don't care one bit about Peter and his lost boys, but you enjoy dark fantasy and horror, you also won't be disappointed.

4. The Prestige by Christopher Priest : This is another one I listened two rather than read. The narrator did a marvelous job throughout, inflecting different voices to each character. As for the story itself, I thought it was brilliant. For the most part, it is told in journal entries by the two competing magicians. It's quite interesting to hear their sides of the story, and I found myself rooting for first Borden as he penned his account of his life, and then Angier when it was his turn. Both had secrets that they dodged around, though the text does give enough hints for their discovery. It's full of twists and turns, and I highly recommend this book.

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline : This is by far my favorite book of 2011. It easily makes its way into my top five favorite books of all time. The story is terrific, and it was so much more fun because of all the pop culture references from the 1980s. The real world, set in the 2040s, is a depressing place, and is certainly a possible future. The Oasis, though, the virtual reality world where most of the story takes place, is, like the name suggests, an oasis from the hard life. The main character, Wade/Parzival, is fun to follow, and I found myself rooting hard for him. The other characters are also well-drawn, and I found it easy to get lost in this story. I recommend the audio version, since Wil Wheaton is the narrator, and he does an excellent job of bringing this story to life. All in all, especially if you're a child of the 80s, and even more so if you enjoyed video games and other fantasy/sci-fi entertainment in the decade, give this one a read. I'd be shocked if you were disappointed.

Honorable Mention: Bag of Bones by Stephen King : I'm not putting this in my five because I've already read this one many times. This year, however, I listened to it for the first time, with Mr. Stephen King himself narrating. I enjoyed it as much as the first time I read it back when it originally came out. Mr. King proved to be an excellent narrator, and I'd certainly like to listen to him read some of his other books. Bag of Bones is one of my favorite books of all time, so it was nice to experience it in this way.

I hope you enjoyed my list, and head over to The Bathroom Monologues to check out the rest of the #BestReads2011 blog-hop.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Writing Prompt #86

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Is that Santa climbing down your chimney...or something else entirely?