The Snobbery’s Naughty and Nice List 2013 Edition

Woo. Another year over and time for another list of things that didn’t suck and some that did. This year Heather will be contributing, so I’ll do my best to keep my own comments short.

Mrs Claus with the Naughty List

This will never get old. Ever.

sj’s List

  • NicecomicsImage almost totally swept my favourite comics of the year. Two brand new titles (Sheltered and Sex Criminals), and two that were new-to-me (Revival and Saga). I’m following all of these monthly now, no trade waiting for me. The Unwritten is my lone Vertigo title, I read all of the trades in a matter of days, then started buying them as they came out. I’m still waiting to read the last arc, though, cos it was a Fables crossover and I fucking hate Fables. I know, I know.
  • Naughtybad YA2013 was apparently the year for lackluster finales to YA trilogies. UNBELIEVABLY, I was not the only one who felt this way. Veronica Roth’s Allegiant and Lauren DeStefano’s Sever all garnered many, many poor reviews. I was shocked. I may have disliked them for different reasons than everyone else, but for once, I was not in the minority. Hm.
  • Nicegallagher girlsProbably my biggest surprise of the year, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls was hands down my favourite new-to-me YA series that I read in 2013. I read the first five in a matter of days, then spent months with the agonizing wait for the finale. Take note, other authors: this is how you end a damn series. Highly recommended to just about anyone.
  • Honourable Mentions: Peter Stenson’s Fiend, Steve Weddle’s Country Hardball, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, Justin Jordan/Tradd Moore’s The Strange Talent of/Legend of Luther Strode

Heather says: When sj asked me to contribute to Santa’s naughty and nice list, I could name five books in a nanosecond. But sj has rules, and she would only count one book per author. So instead of naming my favorite books, my list, with the exception of a single entry, consists of my top favorite authors of 2013.

Heather’s List

  • Niceheather niceI discovered the brilliance of Jasper Fforde early in 2013 with the book Shades of Grey. It was a recommendation from sj, and she usually doesn’t steer me wrong. Grumpy Grandpa Librarian raised his one eyebrow in silent judgment when I checked it out. Methinks he should read more. I loved Fforde’s work so much that I bought his books in paper copies.

    I’m a sneaky-peeper on Goodreads, back when Goodreads had something to peep at. I hated the Goodreads recommendations.

    “You liked Lord of the Rings? You might also like Lord of the Flies. They both start with the letter ‘L’ and are not actually about the Lord.”

    I had to find ways to get recommendations on my own, so I perused friends’ lists to see what they were loving, and Rainbow Rowell‘s work kept appearing. I read Fan Girl and Eleanor & Park. Rowell really gets what it’s like to be awkward. She gets it. I have an allergy to romance, but Rainbow’s work doesn’t trigger the gag reflex. None of her characters are perfect. They’re people. They do smart things, and they do stupid things, and they suffer consequences. I love characters I can root for. I also like Rainbow herself. She is funny and adorable on Twitter. Follow her now, thank me later.

    Ender’s Game. One of these things is not like the other. I loved this book. I found it in the free bin at my local used bookstore a few months ago, and I read it in a day. I cried, I cheered, I hurt deeply for this poor, poor child. But the author is not a kind soul, and that bothers me. Ender was my first five-star book of this year, but I still feel conflicted about putting him on my list.

  • Naughtyheather naughtyI’m pretty forgiving and forgetful, and I hesitate to condemn any author’s work to the pits of the Naughty List, but here you go.

    I, Saul was definitely not the book the blurb told me I was getting. It was boring and ridiculous. Like I said, I can forgive lots of things. The inexcusable bit was receiving an invitation from the publisher to join a blog tour promoting the stupid thing weeks after I had read, reviewed and passed the review on via NetGalley. If they aren’t going bother to read the feedback, why did I read the book?

    The only other name on my naughty list isn’t a book. It’s Goodreads. Don’t look at me like that, Goodreads! You know what you’ve done!

SUPER BEST BOOKS OF 2013

Heather and I don’t always agree on what we read, but this year we agreed on two books that were our very best reads.

They were…

best of

Chris Holm’s The Big Reap and Justin Robinson’s City of Devils! We both reviewed each of these titles and they totally blew us away. You can read our reviews for The Big Reap here and here, and for City of Devils here and here.

In fact, we loved them so much and want you to love them too that we are giving away a copy of each! Thanks to Kate at Candlemark and Gleam and Vicky at Angry Robot, we have a paperback of each book to give away to YOU! All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us what your best books of the year were. On January 3rd, I’ll put all the names into the Hat and draw two lucky winners. Super easy, right?

Until the moment when eternity returned to claim what it was owed.

tdtlAnthologies are a tricky business (tricky, tricky, tricky).

Sad to say that most anthologies leave me a bit cold.  There will be some gems, but I rarely find that I enjoy EVERY story.

This wasn’t the case with Cemetery Dance’s upcoming Turn Down the Lights (out this month!), no – this time I found myself in the strange position of at least liking each story, and even loving a few of them.  Okay, loving several of them (Brian James Freeman‘s “An Instant Eternity” is where the title of this post came from, and that story is fucking haunting, yo).

Let me back up.

A month ago I got an email from Cemetery Dance letting me know that there was a review copy of Turn Down the Lights on its way to me.  No information other than that, except for a note saying that they were looking forward to hearing my thoughts on the first story.

SECRECY!  INTRIGUE!  OTHER EXCITING WORDS!

A few days later it arrived in my mailbox and I open it to see the first story is Stephen King!  I scan the other authors and am mightily impressed.

Jack Ketchum.  Clive Barker.  Peter Straub.

It’s a veritable Who’s Who of Horror, y’know?

Turn Down the Lights celebrates the 25th anniversary of the very first issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, so it makes sense that they’d pull out all the stops with the big names and I was so glad they did.  As I mentioned up there, this collection did not disappoint.

I read devoured the stories in an afternoon, trying to make them last, but unable to control myself.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Books that compel us to just keep reading – more, more, faster!  Yeah, this book has that in spades.

Read it for King’s “Summer Thunder,” which will give you chills even if you’re wrapped up in a blanket in front of a fire.  King once again tackles the it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-I’m-not-feeling-so-fine scenario.  The ending is both uplifting as hell and bleak as shit.  So there you go.

Read it for Barker’s deliciously creepy “Dollie.”  I don’t even have words to talk about this one.  It’s short and anything I say would be a spoiler.  So.  You’ll have to read it yourself.

Read it for Freeman’s (as I mentioned above) hauntingly sad “An Instant Eternity.”  This is another one I don’t really have words for.  I’ve read this one three times already, and still don’t know what to say about it.

Read it for Ed Gorman’s lovely little revenge tale “Flying Solo.” (I haven’t read Gorman before, but he’s sure as hell on my radar now.)  Just because you’re a retiree with cancer doesn’t mean you’re unable to do a little dirty work.  Loved this one.  Read it twice in a row.

Just read the damn thing, okay?  Especially if you’re a completist.  If you’re one of those people who own everything any of these authors has written (even the kinda duds [looking at you, Cycle of the Werewolf]) you NEED this book.  Need.

They eat screams and drink pain.

doctor sleepNearly everyone I know was re-reading The Shining last month, to prepare for Stephen King’s pseudo-sequel Doctor Sleep.  I was not one of them.  I talked about why I can’t read that book anymore here, and I was SO NERVOUS going into this one.

I almost gave up on Doctor Sleep at only 5%.  Almost.

I had to walk away from the book for a few hours to take some deep breaths and calm the sobs that were building up in my throat.

I am particularly sensitive to stories with heavy themes of abuse, especially when small children are involved, and the first section of this book (an incredibly long sort of prologue) was torture.

I’m really glad I stuck with it, though, because I believe this is Unky Steve’s strongest book in many years.

11/22/63 was not my thing (gawd, so long and for WHAT?).  Under the Dome was ALMOST as lame as the tv show they aired this summer.  Duma Key and Lisey’s Story?  Meh.  They were a’ight, but I never really felt invested in them.

Doctor Sleep, though?  Dude.  I did not want to stop reading.

I was supposed to be reading with Heather, and I’m kind of ashamed to say that I left her in the dust early on and then just DIDN’T STOP to let  her catch up.

Okay, that’s a lie.  I totally stopped for a few hours at a time to read some Judy Blume for Banned Books Week, but then it was back to Dan and Abra and the True Knot.  I could not read fast enough; I could not carve out enough time to continue reading; I stayed up late reading and tuned out my kids during mealtimes.

I could not stop reading this book.

And I can’t wait to read it again.

…except maybe this time I’ll just skim the beginning.

“and over it all a savage sickle moon”

The Dark ManWhat?  Me?  A Stephen King fangirl?

Oh, all right – I guess I’ll own that.

Imagine what you’re about to read is punctuated by squees and sighs at the end of each sentence, and you’ll have an idea of what it was like in my house while I was reading the upcoming The Dark Man (July 30th, Cemetery Dance), a poem Stephen King wrote more than 40 years ago about a character that would later become quite possibly my favourite villain of all time.

If  you haven’t yet figured it out (or haven’t been reading my blog long enough to remember this post; or don’t follow IB, so didn’t see this post) I’m talking about The Walkin’ Dude, Mr Randall “They Definitely Don’t Habla Fucking Español” Flagg.

I can already hear people crying out in protest.  “POETRY?!  WTF?!”

To those people I say “Shut it.  This is awesome.”

Not even so much for the poem, which is super short (only ~40 lines), but for the illustrations.

Glenn Chadbourne fucking NAILS IT.  No, really.

This is the Flagg I grew up half-in-love with.  This is the Flagg that haunts your nightmares, but still somehow causes you to turn West.  This is the Flagg that wasn’t [REDACTED] by the events toward the end of the Dark Tower.

This is Randall Fucking Flagg, and that’s why you should read this book.

What, you need more?

Fine.

The Dark Man has 70 line illustrations that tell more of a story than the poem does.  The first time I read it, I didn’t even pay much attention to the words because I was so absorbed in the drawings.  There’s faded graffiti on the sides of old rail cars that you’ll be struggling to read, on the off chance that maybe Bango Skank was once there.  There are ripped and faded dollies in fields whose broken button eyes you’ll be lost in.  The trees, the spiders, the tracks…all of it.  There is so much detail on each page that I feel I could stare at it for years and still not see everything Chadbourne has hidden from me.

Get it.  Seriously.

(Thanks so much to Cemetery Dance for the chance to read and review this early.  <3)