2011 End of Year Book Meme

This End of the Year book meme follows on from Petrona’s, Jen’s Book Thoughts, Reactions to Reading, Crime Scraps and The Game’s Afoot.  It proved a challenge to complete.

1. Best Book of 2011 – John Lawton’s A Lily of the Field.

2. Worst Book of 2011 – What a horrible question.  I won’t name one … but it was probably some or all of these: derivative; derivative serial killer schlock; grasping at gore for some shock factor; having one or more plot holes; as predictable as a tin of Heinz beans; populated with characters of no character; containing no characters with whom to empathise/sympathise; containing unrealistic dialogue; full of so much exposition as to slow the pace; could not decide what genre it was in; exposed a severe lack of research leading to error.

3. Most Disappointing Book – I won’t mention one in particular but the most disappointing for me are novels that could have been so much better if they’d hit the desk of decent editor.  These tend to come from 3 sources:

(a) upfront self-published novels

(b) novels purporting to be published by small presses but which are, in essence, self-published (it doesn’t take a detective to work it out)

(c) quite small presses who don’t appear to have the resources.

Seeing unfulfilled potential is extremely annoying.

4. Most surprising (in a good way) book – Craig Smith’s Cold Rain.  The cover did not draw me in and the blurb led me to suspect I’d be bored quite quickly.  But what lies between the covers is a total gem and very gripping.

5. Book you recommended to people most – John Lawton’s A Lily of the Field, again.

6. Best series you discovered – I’m looking forward to reading more of Adrian Magson’s Lucas Rocco series, set in France in the 1960s.

7. Favourite new authors you discovered – Danny Miller, Elizabeth Haynes, M J McGrath, Lee Vance, Craig Smith, Quentin Bates, David Jackson, Urban Waite, Erin Kelly, James Craig, Adrian Magson.

8. Most hilarious read – All Yours by Claudia Piñeiro.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book – Hunted by Emlyn Rees.  Requires easily obtainable oxygen for long calming breaths.

10. Book you most anticipated – John Lawton’s A Lily of the Field, again.

11. Favourite cover of a book you read – Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster.  It’s artistic.  So many covers out there are so generic these days; this one stood out.  It also has a 1960s feel about it.

12. Most memorable character – Edie Kiglatuk from M J Mc Grath’s White Heat.  She’s solid as a rock, but with very fine fissures.  I’d want her as a friend.

13. Most beautifully written book – John Lawton’s A Lily of the Field, again.  A king of the craft and a truly wonderful wordsmith.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you – Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory by Chil Rajchman.  It is impossible not to be moved by this memoir.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2011 to finally read? I can’t think of one.  Focusing on debuts means I am not putting off my targets.

If you wish to find my thoughts on any of those reads above, please put the relevant name in the search box in the top right of the page.

15 thoughts on “2011 End of Year Book Meme

  1. Rob

    I think number 3 is also about authors who are so successful that editors don’t feel they can tell them to cut 10-20,000 words out and give the manuscript a damn good clean-up. For me the most disappointing books are usually those by authors who usually deliver good stuff, but for some reason push out a dud or have become complacent (and I think the editors are partly culpable for not telling it straight to their stars).

    1. crimeficreader Post author

      Agree. But as I focus on debuts this was not likely to feature in my list.

      I know a few people who are finding it tiresome that publishers think a novel must be of a certain length. To make it so – down the mirage route – might even involve wide margins and plenty of spacing/bigger font. And the book may still carry the publisher’s ‘green’ credentials at the front.

      Don’t get me started on two tomes I received recently. Both in excess of 500 pages. What is that about?

          1. Maxine

            Lucky Bernadette to get Carte Blanche from the library. I paid about £8 for it – and I don’t think it even makes the 100 page mark as there is an intro that is pretty long. I liked it but not that much!

  2. Maxine

    Some interesting suggestions to try here, CFR, thanks. We agree on some (;-) ) eg Pineiro, Haynes, Bates – but many of your choices are by authors I haven’t read. Talking of debuts, have just read an advance copy of Good People by Ewart Hutton, set in Wales so may interest you – it’s a debut novel coming out soon (next month?) – have reviewed for Euro Crime but review not up yet.

    1. crimeficreader Post author

      And a thoroughly good debut it is too. What did you think of it, Maxine? Looks like an overall positive if you are suggesting it to me? Interesting for me that the author is an incomer to Wales. He captures the culture very well.

      1. Maxine

        One reason I suggested it is the Welsh aspect, as I know you do much for books from the region. Well, I should not scoop my own review ;-), but I loved it very much until about the last eighth, when I felt it fell to pieces. Overall, though, a high-quality read and I hope the author does well with it. Being part-Welsh and knowing the country reasonably well, there is so much to laugh about in it that would just pass you by otherwise, it is very sharply observed and great on atmosphere. Pity the ending did not live up to the great build-up!

        1. crimeficreader Post author

          I need to re-read it, which will be necessary, but I enjoyed it a lot and don’t remember feeling let down by the ending. Culture wise it is spot on and, as you say, ‘very sharply observed’. I just hoped the Welsh had moved on a bit from the 1970s… Seems not.

  3. bernadetteinoz

    I probably started in the wrong place with John Lawton (SECOND VIOLIN which I didn’t enjoy that much). Might try LILY one day.

    Your disappointment answer is spot on – I don’t read as many debuts as you but I have been trying to read as many Australian debut crime writers as I can and I do get so annoyed by the basic problems of construction etc that I just don’t think would have been allowed to get through ten years ago.

    1. crimeficreader Post author

      Bernadette, now that the backlist is being reissued by Grove/Atlantic, a new editor is involved making sure they are all tip top for the reissue. I met her last year and she has read them closely, one after the other, and we had a good discussion with some of her colleagues too. If embarking on this series it’s best – if you choose to cover the backlist – to read them in the order in which they were written and published. (The order in which I originally read them.)

      Each can be read as a standalone, but the overall story arc for the characters and the character development is more satisfying if read that way. It also means you don’t bump into any situations of ‘prior knowledge’ that you could meet if you choose to read the stories as set chronologically. For me, there was immense pleasure in seeing the development of the characters along the way and there are some shocks too. One exceptionally big one too.

      Your comments on construction are interesting. I have spoken to a few ‘seasoned’ who are surprised at the quality of output from some of the main pubishing houses these days.

      1. Maxine

        To follow up on your last point, I am regularly shocked at the rubbish (non) editing by big and small publishing houses, in debut and established-author books, in translated also. Some publishers still care about editing and I as a reader am eternally grateful, but too many don’t. An example is the latest Kjell Eriksson – what was going on there?!?!?!?! A few years ago I read a thriller by John Sandford, a very top, bestselling US author with a huge publisher. In one page, the main character comes home at a certain time we are told, and a few paras later he goes out at an earlier time. But apart from basic fact-checking, so often grammar, sentence construction, word breaks, even spelling, are atrocious. And what is with the fashion for constant two- or three- word paragraphs? Did James Patterson start this trend? Pure ignorance, I feel as if I’m reading something aimed at people with a mental age of 5 sometimes, it is most off-putting.

        1. crimeficreader Post author

          I sometimes wonder if the editors and agents of really big names are afraid to acknowledge the emperor’s new clothes when faced with a money-spinning ego.

          1. Maxine

            I am sure some pubishers/agents are afraid, CFR, but you only have to look at very top authors eg Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, to see how quality can be maintained over time as well as bestsellerdom (coincidence that they both have the same UK publisher?! No idea).

            1. crimeficreader Post author

              Perhaps their egos aren’t quite as demanding as some. Seriously though, there is something to be said that they have a very long term relationship and with the same publisher. Connelly’s editor moved to Quercus, but he’s stayed with them. I understand that Rankin also uses one privately who decided to leave a few years ago. Consistency, integrity and quality seem to come together here. And it’s so good in today’s world to see such long term relationships.

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