Monday, June 27, 2011

5 Best of the Year - So Far...

5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Cassandra at her blog INDIE HOUSTON READER  Each week participants post 5 Best Books on any subject matter. Today it's a little different as we're posting 5 Best Books of the Year - So Far.

Now normally, at the end of the year is when I post my Best Of List which includes titles picked from ALL books I've read in the one year, whether they were first published in that particular year or earlier. If the book is 'new' to me, I consider it 'new'. Why not?

For this week's 5 Best, I'm considering books published whenever - simply because I just don't read a lot of brand new, current stuff. (But I'm not including re-reads so I can honestly say that the books I've listed are all 'new' to me since I read them in 2011 for the first time.)


My 5 Best Books of the Year - So Far (And in no particular order.)

1) THE WOMAN IN WHITE (1859) by Wilkie Collins.

Well, yeah, you probably guessed this was coming if you read my adoring two-part review. No big surprise. I loved this book and it will forever be one of my favorites. That I waited so long to read it is my own stubborn fault. Not to put it on my list of Best Of would be a joke. This is the sort of 'what happens next' story nobody writes much anymore -  a cliffhanger in the best sense of the word.  A Victorian era classic about a poor but honest hero, a needy but likable heiress, an intelligent, plucky and devoted half sister, a sad woman in white and a cast of odious, hiss-worthy villains.

2) THE MOVING TOYSHOP (1946) by Edmund Crispin.

My intro to Crispin's work. A book that had been languishing on my shelves for a couple of years. Can't even remember where it came from or how it got there. When that happens I automatically think: book elves!

Anyway, finally read it, loved it and reviewed it. It's the bizzare and very funny story of poet Richard Cadogan who, looking for adventure, shows up in Oxford one night in 1938 and finds it. Late in the evening, while out walking, he spots the dead body of an old woman in a toy shop. But before he can do much about it, he is knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, the body is gone and so is the toyshop, replaced by a grocery store. Since no one will believe his story, he turns to the excrutiatingly eccentric college don Gervase Fen. From there, matters can only go from bad to hilariously worse.

3) ROGUE ISLAND (2010) by Bruce De Silva.

A very self-assured, Edgar Award winning debut by a new (to me) thriller writer, set in and around Providence, Rhode Island. Who new that tiny Rhode Island (the 'Rogue' in the title) was such a vicious hot bed of intrigue and murder? I sure as heck didn't.

Investigative reporter and R.I. native Liam Mulligan smells arson when he investigates the deadly fires that are ravaging his old Mt. Hope neighborhood. Eyed by the harassed and apparently incompetent cops as a loud mouthed intruder and general pain in the ass, Mulligan goes his own way. Despite the many obstacles, he wants and needs to prove that it's the powers that be, the sleazy politicos, landlords and lawyers who are behind the very suspicious fires burning up his hometown. Mulligan is such a corrosively vibrant individual with such a wicked sense of humor, I can't wait to read the next book in the series. This book was a real surprise for me. I love surprises.

4) A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD (2011) by Alan Bradley.

This is the third book in a wonderfully inventive series set in the English countryside of the 1950's and featuring an 11 year old protagonist and budding chemist by the name of Flavia de Luce. Flavia is acutely precocious, curious and lonely - an often wicked combination when there are adults in the area up to no good. This time out, Flavia traverses her village and the land surrounding her home, the run-down estate of Buckshaw, on her bicycle, looking for clues as to why an old gypsy woman has been attacked and left for dead.

Dodging the bullying of her two usually up-to-no-good older sisters, and when necessary, her indifferent stamp collecting father, Flavia usually has the run of the place, free to grow up basically on her own as she fiddles about in the elaborate third floor chemistry lab left almost in tact by her equally eccentric great-uncle Tarquin.

It is the character of Flavia that holds these stories together - she is an inspired creation. (Hard to believe she was created by an almost elderly man.) Despite her obvious eccentricities, at heart, Flavia is basically a lonely young girl trying desperately to give her life some meaning, longing for the long dead mother - who she refers to as Harriet - she doesn't remember. 

A quirky series, but occasionally a very moving one.

5) THE SENTRY(2011) by Robert Crais.

I've long been a major fan of Robert Crais' Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels set in L.A., which are told, in general, from Elvis Cole's first person point of view.  Just a couple of years ago, R.C. began writing a series (now three books along) from the laconic and genuinely enigmatic Joe Pike's point of view. Pike has certainly come a long way considering that R.C. actually thought about killing him off at the end of the first Elvis and Joe book, THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT, many years ago.

In this entry, Pike becomes intrigued with the mystery apparently surrounding Dru Rayne and her uncle, fugitives from the deadly hurricane that gutted New Orleans. Soon he and Elvis are drawn into a deadly battle involving an insanely proficient hired killer, the Mexican mafia, Bolivian drug lords, the LAPD and the FBI. Together, Pike and Elvis will decide when and if to stop trying to help Dru but as secrets are revealed, Elvis must play 'sentry' to keep  his friend Joe Pike from losing his way.


  1. Yay for The Moving Toy Shop! I love Edmund Crispin. Unfortunately, I think I've read all of his books, so none of them will ever be new to me again.

    Here's my top five list:

  2. You've read just about every vintage out there, Bev. Ha!

    I'm just chugging right along. I think I can...I think I can...!

  3. I haven't read near as many as John over at Pretty Sinister Books has. He's the king!

    Oh...and I'll forgive you not liking The Thirteenth Tale if you'll forgive me not liking The Woman in White (I loved The Moonstone). The best thing about The Woman in White was Marian. Other than that...didn't do much for me.

  4. "No two people read the same book." Emerson

    So true. So true. :)

    John is the king.
    He'll like knowing that. :)

  5. A "new" to you list is a fine take on the topic! I haven't read any of these. In fact, the only one that was familiar was the Robert Crais. I think I actually have a copy of that one - if I didn't send it to my mom.

    I think it's a great list. More stuff to try out :)

  6. Hello Yvette:
    Apart from the Wilkie Collins, these are all 'new' to us and certainly provide food for thought when out selecting summer reading.

  7. I need to add #2, #3 and #5 to my list. Can I start Robert Pike series w/o having read the first series?

    Wholeheartedly agree with you on #1 and #4!


  8. Cassie: New is as 'new' does. Right? Glad you agree. When I check out all these lists I am always amazed how many books are still out there UNREAD by me.

    It's daunting!

    Your mom reads Robert Crais?

    Good for her. Obviously a woman of great reading taste. :)

  9. Jane and Lance: Somehow I just don't see you guys reading 'thrillers' in the warm Hungarian or English sun. :)

    But I could be wrong. Thanks again for dropping by J&L: as always your comments are very valued by yours truly.

  10. Belle:
    For the Pike series; It really does help with the understanding of the depth of their friendship, to have read a few of the previous Elvis and Joe books. In my view anyway. You don't have to have read ALL the previous books, although I have.

    Just try:

    Free Fall
    Indigo Slam
    L.A. Requiem

    Then you can go to the Pike books as you like.

    You could, of course, read the Pike books cold, and enjoy them - they are so well written - but I think having a bit of a background deepens the experience.

    ROGUE ISLAND was astonishingly good. Hard to hit the ground running with a debut novel, but this guy managed it. I'm eagerly waiting for the next one in the series.


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