Top 5 Reads of 2011

So I’ve decided to do a cute little top five list, because really- who doesn’t like lists? This is a super subjective list as it’s my personal favorites that I reviewed rather than everything I read this year. Possibilities are from the clickable books on this list.

5. What Would Satan Do? by Anthony Miller

4. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

3. Small Magic: Collected Flash Fiction by Aaron Polson

2. Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern

1. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

{titles link to my review of the book}

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What were your favorite reads of 2011? Or if you’ve already made a ‘top x’ post, link below!

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Up in the Attic and Other Stories

Written by Amanda Lawrence Auverigne

This is a collection of holiday themed short stories, described as horror or dark fantasy. I would classify it only as dark fantasy as it’s simply not scary. I found the stories felt melodramatic as the author tended to write very choppy descriptions, and use many one or two sentence paragraphs in a row. A lot of the language Auverigne uses throughout the seven stories is very similar, and reading them all at once is a bit much. I found the sheer amount of references to various sites and gadgets a bit annoying, as were the often unnecessary mundane conversations between characters. I really wanted to like something about this collection as idea-wise it sounded promising, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes mixing high school drama with a touch of dark fantasy.

Nibble: ” ‘No, I love you the best when you’re eating because that’s the only time when you’re conscious and quiet.’ ”

My Rating: 1 out of 10 chopped up apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

I am a… Reading Challenge Addict

Or becoming one anyways. I’ll be entering the Reading Challenge Addict meta-challenge. I’m attempting the Easy as Pie level with 1-5 entered and completed challenges. The highest level is Out of this World with 16 or more challenges completed, but I’d be quite happy with just finishing the four, *ahem* five now, that I’ve entered.

A list, and progress, of the challenges I’ve entered is here.

Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic

Edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris N. Brown

This anthology is a collection of Mexican short stories, a poem, and flash fiction. I hesitate to label it as science fiction or even fantastic, as a few of the stories don’t seem by any means to touch upon that [ex. Waiting- a short story just focused on waiting for death]. What did unite the collection was that many of the translated stories had lovely imagery, and decorative language. As a warning though, many of the stories do not follow an arc, nor is there the amount of substantial science fiction one would expect from the introduction. The stories are rather pretty, but many feel shallow or unfinished. I found the stories tended to be either interesting without any plot, or on the cliched predictable side. Two stories avoided this, and they were the shining gems of the collection- Photophobia and The Drop. Those two are certainly worth hunting after. The rest are fine and rather quick to read, but I didn’t take too much away from them.

I would recommend this to someone already interested in contemporary Mexican literature.

Nibble from Photophobia: “Tell me honestly… Which is better: to get ahead of eternity, or to let eternity catch up to us?”

My Rating: 6 out of 10 red apple ornaments

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the Early Reviewers program via LibraryThing.

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story

Written by Jeff Jensen, Illustrated by Jonathan Case

The plot is based around trying to find the Green River Killer, and finding sufficient proof. The story is told from the detective’s point of view, and written by the detective’s son.

This graphic novel had quite the opening, rather dramatic and suspenseful, and it drew me in quickly. The rest of the novel was more psychological rather than action-based which heightened my interest without desensitizing me. The stark black and white artwork grew on me throughout the novel, and a lot of expression was packed into the amount of lines drawn. The understated art worked excellently with this novel, and kept it from going into the flashy gore zone. The examination and quasi obsession with the killer is fascinating, as the killer’s motivations remain largely a mystery. As the book is extremely readable and compelling, I finished it in one go this morning. I found the story all around interesting, perhaps more so as I’m from the East Coast, and hadn’t heard much about this serial killer. All of the main characters were complete, and gave the right emotional depth for this piece.

The only thing against this story, is I don’t think it would hold up to multiple reads. It also had many time jumps, for long and short amounts of time forwards and backwards, which took me out of the story as I tried to imagine an accurate timeline.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about the darker side of human nature.

Nibble: “When the Vietcong hear of my legend, they quiver in fear, then staple something.”

My Rating: 8 out of 10 dark red apples

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Alien Contact

Edited by Marty Halpern

Authors by Order of Appearance: Paul McAuley, Neil Gaiman, Karen Joy Fowler, Harry Turtledove, George Alec Effinger, Stephen King, Pat Murphey, Mike Resnick, Orson Scott Card, Bruce McAllister, Ernest Hogan, Pat Cadigan, Ursula K. LeGuin, Adam-Troy Castro, Michael Swanstck, Mark W. Tiedemann, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Moon, Nancy Kress, Jack Skillingstead, Robert Silverberg, Jeffrey Ford, Molly Gloss, Bruce Sterling, Charles Stross, & Stephen Baxter

Twenty-six fantastic stories about alien contact are stuffed into this anthology. From humor to romance to suspense each author finds their own world with aliens. Not only are all of the stories completely different, but all of them are worth multiple reads, and say something about the human condition. What I really enjoyed about this anthology, was that all of the stories are fairly recent. Especially with science fiction, I simply didn’t have much exposure to anything written by talented living authors. On a cute note, each story ends with a tiny alien head. All in all, this collection really blew me away and is my new favorite anthology. Simply put: awesome content, awesome authors, lots of awesomeness.

I would highly recommend this to anyone.

Nibble from Effinger’s story: “To hear a nup talk, he had a direct line to some categorical imperative that spelled everything out in terms that were unflinchingly black and white. Hollyhocks were the best flower.”

My Rating: 10 out of 10 glowing green apples

I received a free paper copy of this book from the First Reads program via Goodreads.

The Trees: A Collection

By Todd Brabander

This is a collection of five quick stories- three shorts and two flashes. The stories were all easy to read, though a bit jumpy. All of the stories were very different from one another, fit a good amount of plot in their pages, and a few of them had surprising twists at the end. They each had unique bits of absurdity and horror in them. Sheltered was by far my favorite story of the collection, and the choppiness worked well for this story. The Trees in particular gave a vivid feel of forests in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately two of the stories, Laroche and The Trees, had predictable endings that took away from their building momentum. As a warning there is a touch of gore.

I would recommend these stories as a fun Sunday night read.

Nibble: “The robot felt something small give way under his foot.”

My Rating: 6 out of 10 fiery cursed apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.