2008 has come to a close and it was a great year for reading since I read a great many more really good memorable books than I did in 2007. My only reading goal for the year was to read 50 books and I ended up reading 54, which is a lot more than 2007 (which was something like 36). That’s probably at least partially because I discovered I really liked space opera this year and read a lot of that instead of a lot of epic fantasy doorstoppers. I do review everything I read so all of those have been reviewed with the exception of some of the more recently read books, which will be reviewed when I have the time.

Favorites of 2008

My top ten favorites out of all books read throughout the year and commentary on each can be found over at The Book Smugglers, where I was a guest blogger for Smugglivus. Instead of rehashing the same list that is available elsewhere, I’m going to do some favorites in select categories for 2008. Since I only read about 12 books published in 2008, I’m including all books read unless otherwise noted.

Favorite book published in 2008: Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth by Elizabeth Bear
Runners-up: Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre, The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Yes, I know these are actually two books but they were supposed to be one book originally and together tell a complete story so it’s hard to just pick one of them. Bear’s tale of Faerie and Elizabethan England contains well-written prose and dialogue, an interesting plot, and some great (and famous) characters such as Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare.

Most ambitious work: Dune by Frank Herbert

It is a classic for a reason and does not even feel particularly dated, which is rare for science fiction books I’ve read which were written around the same time. Dune combines religion and philosophy, has some action and adventure, and has a truly interesting character in young Paul Atreides. The strong role women play in the universe is also very unique for its time when many of the famous science fiction books written around the same time tended to be male-dominated. Although it wasn’t one that resonated strongly with me personally, I did really enjoy reading Dune and it was one of the better books I read this year.

Favorite new (both fairly new and new to me) author: Sarah Monette
Runner-up: Elizabeth Bear

Sarah Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinth series is edgy with two exceptionally well-developed characters. It’s certainly not for everyone with its darker tones and Monette’s propensity to think of the worst possible thing she can do to her characters and then write about it. As someone who thinks the darker the better, I can’t get enough of this series.

Best ending: Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

I’d heard this ending was pretty good but I really didn’t see it coming. Rereading this one with an idea of the ending would be interesting.

Longest short book I ever read: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Seriously, it was only about 200 pages but it felt like it would never end.

Book so impossible to put down you’d have to pry it from my cold dead hands: Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair
Runner-up: Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre

Shades of Dark was impossible to put down with its great characters and fast-paced plot (at least after it got going a little bit). Wanderlust was also extremely difficult to pry out of my hands until I was finished with it.

Best battle: Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

Normally I’d rather read about characters and politics than battles, but this one did have me right on the edge of my seat!

Best prose: Ink and Steel/Hell and Earth by Elizabeth Bear
Runner-up: Last Dragon by J. M. McDermott

Bear has a very specific, lush vocabulary with some lovely dialogue.

Most creative: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A child’s parents are murdered, leaving him in the capable hands of the inhabitants of the local graveyard. It sounds completely strange but it very much worked.

Most imaginative incorporation of well known legends: The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari

This retelling of the book of Job in the Bible combined with the legends of King Arthur still managed to seem fresh and original.

Most unique magic system: Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

It’s definitely unique although getting magic powers by swallowing different types of metal may be a little much for my suspension of disbelief. All I can think of is how unhealthy that sounds. (It’s still a fun read though.)

Favorite character: Mildmay (Sarah Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinth series)
Runners up: Felix (same series), Whiskey (Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series), Miles Vorkosigan (series of the same name by Lois McMaster Bujold)

Both Mildmay and Felix are extraordinarily well fleshed out characters, but in the end, Mildmay is just more sympathetic. Although both have their vulnerabilities, he tends to be less of a bastard about it. The amoral shape-shifting waterhorse Whiskey was another favorite to read about, and the vibrant Miles Vorkosigan has the type of personality that leaps off the pages.

Book containing most interesting alien species: Probability Moon by Nancy Kress

With all the space opera I’ve read this year, I’ve read about an awful lot of telepaths, empaths, and shapeshifers. This particular alien race was not any of those but instead worked in a universe of shared reality – if an inhabitant of the world did not believe as the others did, it caused them actual physical pain, making for an interesting first contact situation between them and humans.

Books Read/Reviewed in 2008

In case anyone is interested in the full list for comparison, below are all the books I’ve completed in 2008 with a star next to those published in 2008. I’ve reviewed all of them except for some of the newer ones unless my fiance John read and reviewed them first (sometimes I read books he reviewed when I had a lot of catching up to do). All books reviewed by John are listed underneath my list. Between the two of us, we wrote 53 reviews this year (although I reviewed everything I’ve read, some of them were omnibus versions that I reviewed together and I’m also a little behind right now).

Kristen’s Books

1. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
2. The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier
3. The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari
4. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
6. Neuromancer by William Gibson
7. Breath and Bone by Carol Berg *
8. Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro
9. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
10. Melusine by Sarah Monette
11. The Virtu by Sarah Monette
12. The Mirador by Sarah Monette
13. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre *
14. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
15. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
16. A Kind of Peace by Andy Boot
17. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
18. Hood by Stephen Lawhead
19. Last Dragon by J.M. McDermott *
20. Dune by Frank Herbert
21. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
22. Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear
23. Witness by Bill Blais
24. The Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro
25. Blood Follows by Steven Erikson (reread)
26. A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
27. Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear
28. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
29. The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
30. Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell
31. Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
32. The Cipher by Diana Pharoah Francis
33. Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse
34. The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia *
35. Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre *
36. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
37. Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie * (in the US)
38. Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear *
39. Hell and Earth by Elizabeth Bear *
40. Probability Moon by Nancy Kress
41. Maledicte by Lane Robins
42. Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch
43. The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks *
44. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman *
45. Variable Star by Spider Robinson and Robert A Heinlein
46. The Healthy Dead by Steven Erikson (not yet reviewed)
47. The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
48. Skyfall by Catherine Asaro
49. All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear *
50. Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair
51. Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair *
52. An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (not yet reviewed)
53. Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold (not yet reviewed)
54. The Jackal of Nar by John Marco (not yet reviewed)

John’s Reviews:

The Abyss by Orson Scott Card
Before They Are Hanged (First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie
The Beggars trilogy by Nancy Kress (aka The Sleepless trilogy)
Dragon’s Wild by Robert Asprin
God’s Demon by Wayne Barlow
Nation by Terry Pratchett
The Peace War by Vernor Vinge
Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson