Susan’s Book Talk: 2010 in review


If you’d asked me how I thought I was doing in conquering the TBR mountain range in my office, I’d have told you I was failing. After all, the stack behind my desk of series and rock books has grown to new, scary heights. It has become a new Western peak in the TBR mountain range. Surely this was my worst year for reading since before I started keeping track.

Yet the Eastern Peaks have shrunk. Those are my mass market books, stacked four deep and with two columns bookending (ha) the area that’s four deep.

There’s even been movement in the Southern Ranges (those on the floor, under my desk). Of course, deciding I wasn’t going to finish the first Cirque du Freak book immediately took 11 off my stacks…

Also shrinking was the Eastern side of the Northern range. Those are the hardbacks and trade paperbacks. If I’m dedicated, I might be able to decimate the farthest Western Peak of the Northern range; right now, it consists of 22 books. Surely I can read 22 books in 2011?

Sure I can. To my surprise, I read 93 books in 2010. That might go up by one, if I finish the book by my old professor and mentor Reginald McKnight, He Sleeps. We’ll see. (I didn’t, but did finish Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Fenced-in Woman.) This is the most I’ve read since 2007, when I read 97 books. So close to 100 that year!

Not bad, considering all the fiction I’ve been working on. (Even though I only got one book out this year. I’m aiming for 2 in 2011, so you know. Hold me to that, okay?)

So here’s the highlights:
I bookended the year with indie reads: Sue Lange’s great Uncategorized and Darcia Helle‘s Enemies and Playmates. Very good, that last one. Darcia’s got some serious chops, so be sure to look both of these women up.

I revisited old literary friends who had series new and old: Jennifer Estep, Robin Hobb, Rachel Vincent, Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, Linda Fairstein, Jonathan Kellerman.

I checked out writers I’ve been meaning to read: JR Ward — yes, I finally began to experience the Brotherhood! And Lisa Kleypas, who is every bit as good as people say she is.

I read books by authors I know online but hadn’t read yet: Anya Bast, TJ Bennett’s The Promise. Loved ’em both. Same for Rebecca Cantrell’s debut, A Trace of Smoke. And then there’s Mitchell James Kaplan, whose By Water, By Fire is brilliant — and who came in person to book club and sat in my own living room to chat with us.

Don’t forget CJ Lyons, who asked me to read some books she’d put up on Smashwords. Really, people, if you are a fan of CJ (and if you’re not yet, you should be), get these. They are great fun! Total formula, but I’m a fan of formula (which makes this a compliment). And CJ handles it really really well.

Some literary gems: Diane Smith’s Letters from Yellowstone. I adored this book, even though when I read Janet Fox’s debut, Faithful, I saw similarities in the plots of the two.

Of course, there are the staples of my life: rock and roll. Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned could have been the first stand-out of the year, but I happened to read Brian Francis’ The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington too close together for two books with a lot of similarities. So we’ll call the first standout What the Librarian Did, by Karina Bliss. I read a lot of rock books this year (19 of 93!), but only a few were standouts. RJ McDonnell comes immediately to mind; I read both of his books this year (Rock and Roll Homicide and Rock and Roll Ripoff). Why isn’t RJ on Smashwords? If you use Smashwords, drop him a note and tell him you want to see his books listed there.

Rachel Cohn hit it with Pop Princess. So did Sarra Manning with Guitar Girl. It’s pretty sad that the young adult rock and roll fiction is better than the adult stuff. I mean, hello? MTV generation. What happened us??

Melody Lane to the rescue, with Lex Valentine coming close.

Three Cups of Tea left me aching for more books to sell and more royalties to donate to charity. It was only one of an unusual number of non-fiction for me. Included on this list is Jim Lindberg’s Punk Rock Dad, Mark Kurzem’s The Mascot, and Helen Epstein’s classic, Children of the Holocaust. Don’t forget Joel McIver’s To Live is to Die.

In an unusual move for me, we read a lot of Holocaust lit — both with my book club and me, myself, on my own. Book club read Those Who Save us (Jenna Blum) and The Diplomat’s Wife (Pam Jenoff), and you can see some other titles above (Rebecca Cantrell, Mark Kurzem, Helen Epstein), Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, which was fascinating if not as shocking as I’d heard.

Mary Sharratt is an author who I’d only experienced once before. I LOVED Daughters of the Witching Hill. A definite stand-out; I still think about quite a bit of it.

Of the 93 books I read, I didn’t finish 22 of them. I don’t make myself finish anything I don’t like. Not when I’ve got mountain ranges sitting here beside me, taunting me with their very presence…

On to 2011. I encourage you guys to pick up any books by the authors I’ve mentioned here. If there’s no title and you’d like a suggestion, let me know. And feel free to leave some of your top picks in the comments. You know I love comments!

**Just a reminder to go on and use these links on the book titles to click through and buy stuff. You’ll get either Powells or Smashwords unless I tell you otherwise. (Links on author names take you to author websites.) I’ll make a few pennies, and those pennies help support this joint. Or will be turned into a giveaway for you guys. Whatever I’m in the mood for.



  1. Robin

    January 1, 2011 4:11 pm

    Great reads and congrats on reading 93 books. I also discovered J.R. Ward and Charlaine Harris, plus a few other paranormal authors that I enjoyed. I thoroughly enjoyed your books too. I’ll have to check out C.J. Lyons. I’ve been meaning to read her books. Cheers for a great new reading year.

  2. anymommy

    January 2, 2011 5:32 pm

    Hi Susan, I want to say thank you so much for stopping by and giving me a little encouragement on my Summer Connolly project. I have so many questions, but I will try to hone them down and not wear out my welcome immediately. In the meantime, it is a pleasure to meet you and find your site.

  3. Thomma Lyn

    January 2, 2011 11:53 pm

    Lots of great recommendations, my friend! I have plenty of catching up to do in the TBR pile department.
    .-= Thomma Lyn´s last blog ..New Year’s Resolutions =-.

  4. bobkat

    January 3, 2011 12:24 pm

    You put me to shame! I have no idea how many books I read in 2010 but I am pretty sure it was less than double digits. I aim to improve this, this year. After all I have Trevor’s Song to motivate me and it’s near the top of my pile : )

    Happy New Year!

  5. C.A.T.

    January 3, 2011 12:59 pm

    Gee, 93?! I doubt I could accomplish half of that. The problem is I got most of the books in pdf ebook format. And my eyes get tired faster when staring at a monitor than at a printed book pages.
    .-= C.A.T.´s last blog ..Music Monday- Best Cover Versions – Smells Like Teen Spirit =-.

  6. Alice Audrey

    January 4, 2011 12:11 am

    You’ve really been moving mountains. Makes my TBR look like a tiny hill.

  7. Sheila Deeth

    January 4, 2011 1:03 am

    Reminds me I’ve got to get organized. Just read Sage Cohen’s book (she’s on my blog today) so that should help.
    .-= Sheila Deeth´s last blog ..How I Became a Productive Writer – and How You Can- Too- A Guest Post by Author Sage Cohen =-.

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