Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best of 2011: Books

Now that the New Year is over with and things have had time to settle down, I figured I would go ahead and put up my Top 11 list of 2011. These are the the cream of the crop; the 11 titles that I enjoyed reading the most in 2011. This year I didn't get around to writing a review of everything that a read, let alone enjoyed, so this list might look a little different than the list of books that I reviewed in 2011.

Most all of the titles in this list, in one way or another, were published in 2011. For instance, Nate Southard's Just Like Hell was originally published a few years back as a limited edition, but this year Deadite Press re-released it in an affordable paperback, therefore counting as a 2011 release.

So, without further ado, here's my top 11 List of 2011:

1.) Every Shallow Cut - One of the most powerful pieces of work I've read in a long time. It's gritty, real, and has a razors edge to it that will cut you if you aren't careful. This is Picirilli at his best. It'll be interesting to see if Picirilli can top Every Shallow Cut with his forthcoming 2012 titles: What Makes You Die, which Pic has already stated is in the same vein as ESC. If you like Noir, and stories that don't have a happy ending, then this is your cup of tea. And it's a rather short read, which makes it even easier to digest. I knocked it out in only a few hours.

2.) The Wide Game - The debut novel of horror author Michael West. A writer, I think many don't have an eye on yet, but should, and soon will. A man who loves his cinematic horror, the knowledge and appreciation for the genre shine through in The Wide Game. Add to that beautifully written prose that will at once steal your breath, send a chill down your spine, and make you lose all track of time, The Wide Game takes the reader back to a time when horror was thriving. Back to a time where storytellers and Hollywood didn't rely on gratuitous violence and stupid gore to shock the connoisseur. Back to a time when this novel would have easily made the New York Times, and quite possibly rivaled the newest Stephen King title.

3.) Hard Spell - The first book in the Occult Crime Unit series by Justin Guistainis, Hard Spell is a hard hitting crime story wrapped in a balls-to-the-walls premise, masquerading as an urban fantasy detective story. If you like cops, vampires, and an author with a great sense of humor, then Hard Spell is definitely for you. As soon as I finished it, I was hooked and ready for more. I'm glad that the release of the next book in the series, Evil Dark, is only a few months away (April), otherwise I'd be having issues.

4.) Just Like Hell - One of the best novellas I read in 2011. So much of the literature that's crammed into the horror genre is nothing more than gore porn; written for the soul purpose of invoking shock and awe in the reader. It was refreshing to pick up a title that, although the cover would have you think otherwise, was nothing like what I thought it would be. "Don't judge a book by its cover," is I admit, exactly what I did. Luckily enough for me, I was proven wrong. There's nothing in life that's more shocking than the truth. Something that's surreal; vivid to the point of believing you saw it headlining the news. Just Like Hell was the read for me. More so than anything else I read in 2011.

5.) A Blight of Mages - One of the few books I read in 2011 that hit me emotionally, and made me think from start to finish. It wasn't until I read  A Blight of Mages, that the phrase: "respect isn't owed, it's earned," made sense to me, and since then it's taken on a personal meaning for me. Not many books in the past have made me think, or cared for the characters for that matter, as much as this novel did. The prequel to Miller's fantasy series Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, A Blight of Mages has spurred my interest even further for the 'first' book of the aforementioned duology. Which is on my TBR list for 2012. If Miller can do in the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology what she did in this novel, she'll not only have made an urban fantasy fan out of me, but a fantasy fan as well. Anything and everything I can get my hands on by her, I will.

6.) The Doctor and the Kid - The Doctor and the Kid picks up soon after the events in The Buntline Special. It's been a year since Doc Holliday fought alongside the Earp's at the O.K. Corral, and months since he tore across the Arizona Territory on Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride seeking vengeance for the assassination Morgan Earp.  From the very first word I knew that this book would be better than its predecessor, and fortunately enough, I was right. Mike Resnick manages to reinvent the gaps in Doc Holliday's life just enough to add in fantastic elements and re-write it enough to tell one hell of a good yarn. Where The Buntline Special focused on the Earp's, Masterson and the shootout at the O.K. Corral, The Doctor and the Kid focuses in on Doc Holliday, and his dealings with Billy the Kid. Throw in some shamanistic magic, steampunk gadgetry and a handful of awesome historical figures, and you've got my number six pick for Top 11 Books of 2011.

7.) Jack's Magic Beans - Alongside Just Like Hell by Nate Southard, is Brian Keene's novella, Jack's Magic Beans. After nearly five years of sitting unpublished (and me waiting), this delectable novella finally saw publication in 2011. When I heard that this was the case I immediately jumped on the chance to review it. Also published through Deadite Press, Jack's Magic Beans isn't just a novella; it's paired with a handful of short stories written by Brian Keene that although they don't really add anything to the main title, are nevertheless great nuggets for anyone wanting more Keene.

8.) The Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson's triumphant return to the world he created in the Mistborn Trilogy. Set three hundred years in the future, everything that happened to the heroes in The Hero of Ages is now a form of religion. Wax, one of the few Allomantics who's a Twin Born returns home after twenty years in the Roughs. Forced to set his ways behind him and his guns aside, he's forced take on the family business much to the chagrin of himself and others. When the women he plans on marrying goes missing, Wax finds himself thrown into a web of mysteries that will change the city itself. Every bit of The Alloy of Law was fun, and I look forward to seeing what Sanderson writes next.

9.) Cinema of Shadows - 2011 saw not one, but two releases for horror author Michael West. Hot off the heels of his debut novel, The Wide Game, and a contract with Seventh Star for eight novels, Michael West returned in 2011 with his first release from Seventh, and the second book in his New Harmony series. Cinema of Shadows was everything that I could want in a ghost story: an intelligent professor with a sordid past, a group of teenagers searching for answers in a Ghost Adventures fashion, a haunted movie theater, a well paced story, and an exorcism from Hell. Plus a few familiar faces. Cinema of Shadows did not disappoint.

10.) Crab Town - Crab Town was my first official foray into the genre known as Bizarro. At first I wasn't sure what to expect, but after a long few weeks of doing some investigating, I finally decided on a Bizarro title to read. Crab Town is set in a post-apocalyptic future. One where radiation has poisoned the living, and balloon people are real. Carlton Mellick III manages to take a down right crazy assortment of ideas and make something intelligent and thought provoking out of it. Crab Town is the literary equivalent to the A-Team and Waterworld... minus the water.
11.) Devil Red - And last but not least is the newest entry in Joe R. Lansdale's Hap & Leonard series, Devil Red. With Devil Red Lansdale manages to keep all the familiarities of the past novels in tact,-- including Lansdale's memorable quick wit -- while subtly introducing hard cold realizations that will change the face of the Hap and Leonard's relationship, and their future as East Texas detectives. At first I wasn't sure how to react to Devil Red, but after several re-reads it all became clear. Here's the cover-flap description:
Hap Collins and Leonard Pine return in a red-hot, mayhem-fueled thriller to face a vampire cult, the Dixie Mafia, and the deadliest assassin they’ve ever encountered—Devil Red.

When their friend Marvin asks Hap and Leonard to look into a cold-case double homicide, they’re more than happy to play private investigators: they like trouble, and they especially like getting paid to find it. It turns out that both of the victims were set to inherit serious money, and one of them ran with a vampire cult. The more closely Hap and Leonard look over the crime-scene photos, the more they see, including the image of a red devil’s head painted on a tree. A little research turns up a slew of murders with that same fiendish signature. And if that’s not enough, Leonard has taken to wearing a deerstalker cap . . . Will this be the case that finally sends Hap over the edge?

No comments:

Post a Comment