Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Top 27 Books of 2016 .. The Early Version

2016 has been history for about ten minutes now. So, it's time for me to recall fondly the best books of the last 12 months ... as far as my enjoyment was concerned. I make NO allusions that these were the 27 best in terms of quality. But I enjoyed the heck out of them. And maybe you might too.

As usual, I wait until the end of the year and then do a search in my Calibre database for all the books that I scored 10 Kovids when rating them in Calibre. Kovid Goyal is the creative mind behind Calibre, the best eBook tracking system that there is. You can give Calibre a checkout by going to Features – calibre if you want. I guarantee that you will derive SOME benefit from the program if you read books via an eReader of whatever sort. And if you do, don't forget the DONATE button in the upper right. Otherwise, this program is free. So, spend to your consciousness's limit.

Now, this FIRST DRAFT of this past year's gems is going to be, by necessity, brief. Nature calls and the night is still young. To do work. Rumplestiltskin. But I did want to note the 10-Kovid books and I will comment on all but one of them later.

The list of books that rated my top score:

  • Jonathan Abrams's Boys Among Men
  • Ben Lindbergh's The Only Rule Is That It Has To Work
  • Bob McKenzie's Hockey Confidential

  • Elizabeth Bonesteel's The Cold Between
  • Lindsay Buroker's Star Nomad
  • Tanya Huff's An Ancient Peace 
  • Marko Kloos's Terms of Enlistment & Lines of Departure & Chains of Command
  • B. V. Larson's Dreadnought & Rebel Fleet
  • Ken Lizzi's Under Strange Suns
  • Arlene F. Marks's The Genius Asylum
  • John J. Nance's Orbit
  • Mike Resnick's The Prison in Antares
  • John Sandford and Ctein's Saturn Run

  • Jack Campbell's The Assassins of Altis & The Pirates of Pacta Servanda
  • Tanya Huff's Third Time Lucky and Other Stories of the Most Powerful Wizard in the World 
  • Kristen Painter's Miss Frost Solves A Cold Case
  • Jody Wallace's The Whole Truth

  • Jeffery Deaver's Where the Evidence Lies
  • Gina Lamanna's Sprinkled

  • Bruce Desilva's A Scourge of Vipers
  • Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg's The Pursuit
  • Paul Levine's Bum Rap

Young Adult
  • Zac Harrison's Crash Landing

I wasn't sure there was a standout winner even two weeks deep into Decemeber. I loved the laugh-out-loud humour of Huff's collection of short fantasy stories that date back decades, featuring the lazy and lusty wizard Magdelene. I think the book is every bit the equal of Henry Kuttner's Robots Have No Tails. And I spent an AWFUL lot of the year reading the works of both Buroker and Kloos, with both authors getting me to read more than a THOUSAND pages of their series this year. I admit, I came THISclose to repeating last year's conceit of handing Buroker the title for getting me to eagerly devour nine books in the Fallen Empire series. On the other hand, I gave three of the five books in Kloos's Frontlines series a full 10 Kovids. Does nine good to great books outweight five decent to great books? I don't have an answer either. So, no repeat of the series as best book concept I trotted out last year when K. K. Rusch won for the Anniversary Day Saga sub-series.

I was charmed by Painter and I thought Wallace had a brilliant take on super powers for the comic book-inclined among us. The sports books were strong this year and I enjoyed the antics of Lindbergh, the depth of investigation by Abrams and the look behind the scenes McKenzie enjoyed with a handful of hockey subjects. One of which was the dreaded David Frost blight on society, of which I was a small participant of. But McKenzie's look at it from the Sheldon Keefe angle was informative, honest and it might be the only positive to ever emerge from the darkness Frost brought onto the hockey scene over the last three decades.

But in the end, it was a book after my own heart. The fourth tome in the Liam Mulligan series of thrillers by New England mystery writer Bruce Desilva. I only was tipped to Desilva by an email from Lee Goldberg and many thanks go to him for that. Mulligan is, or was, a writer for a fictional Providence newspaper, hanging onto relevance by the width of a newspaper broadsheet. Enjoyed the first book in the series and then less of the second and the third was at best mediocre. Honestly, I wasn't sure WHY I picked up the fourth, A Scourge of Vipers. It's the completist in me, I guess. I had only four books in the series (a fifth has now been obtained) and I didn't want to leave one unread. As an ex-newspaperman who gets together with a couple of other old fuddie-duddies from back in those days about three, four times a year, there remains a certain romance in my memory for the good ol' days when newspapers were relevant. I loved the biz and was sorry I left it when I did, especially for radio and then a PR position. But with the unions moving into small weeklies at the time, I wouldn't have kept enjoying working at the paper I was at for much longer anyways.

Desilva's book is the most rivetting, gut-renching depiction of a smart-ass reporter with scruples finding a way to both save the day, end up fired and better off and find true love, or at least a reasonable facsimile of it. I wanted to BE Liam Mulligan by the time all was said and done.

More about the book and all the rest in the next blog. When will that be? Wish I knew. Check back frequently if you care. No promises as to when.