Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Reads of 2011 AKA Witty's Reviews

Due to the continuing unemployment, I haven't indulged in a lot of reading or purchasing of book titles.  It's a good thing the public library is nearby (hi, Centennial Park crew!) and I was able to snag a few titles of fiction, non-fiction, graphic-novel, and whatnot for review today:

BEST FICTION BOOK

Hurricane Punch, by Tim Dorsey.
As mentioned before, it's not what's new I'm reviewing but something I've read this year.  And this year, during a nice phase where certain ebooks were for sale, I added Dorsey's eighth Serge A. Storms novel to my Nook Color.
I've might have mentioned the Serge series previously: it's about a seriously deranged enthusiastic promoter of Floridian tourism - Serge, natch - who travels about the Sunshine State obsessing over some new trivial matter about the state, leaving chaos, bodies, and sexually satisfied women in his wake.  Hurricane Punch is an interesting insert into the series, where Serge is facing certain realities: he's hitting middle-age, he's getting to that point in his "career" where serial killers start making mistakes, and he's facing competition in the form of a mysterious new psychopath calling himself "Eye Of The Storm" and mimicking Serge's killing style.  Equally distracting is that Florida is facing another hurricane season and Serge is desperate to track every single one...
While morbid black comedy isn't everyone's cup of coffee, the Serge series is still entertaining at least to this long-time Florida resident for the sheer level of trivial details that Dorsey throws into the stories.  The local culture of hurricane response, the fact that Tampa Bay still has two strong newspapers when most media markets are down to one, stopovers at key locations such as Yeehaw Junction...  Tasty tidbits in the larger story.
Naturally a lot of the novel leaves a lot to coincidence and contrived wrap-ups, but in terms of humorous thrillers I recommend this book and the series as a whole.


BEST NON-FICTION BOOK

All apologies, but failed to read one that I feel good about recommending.  Read mostly technical, computer science titles for skills refreshing.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

Brief Lives (Sandman), by Neil Gaiman and Jill Thompson
The bad news this year was that a bookstore chain, Borders/Waldenbooks, went out of business.  The good news, it meant fire sales where graphic novels got to be 50 percent to 60 percent off.  What that meant: I got around to beefing up my Sandman graphic novel collection.
Brief Lives is perhaps the crux of Gaiman's entire arc covering the decline and fall of the Endless Aspect of Dream.  What happens here is that Dream's youngest sister Delirium - an unstable aspect of life - suddenly gets in her head the idea of finding "their lost brother", an Aspect that abandoned his duties, and she petitions all of her siblings until she guilt-trips a distracted and unamused Dream into helping her find Destruction.  And then Dream has to say to his aide, "What could possibly go wrong?"
This particular volume has a lot to say about Life Itself: how we perceive it, how it flies by, how we define it... and sad of all, how brief life can really be.  As Destruction, once found, points out during his evening confrontation with Dream and Delirium, even the stars in the night sky do not last and will flicker and end.  Even the Gods and Immortals we meet during Delirium's quest must face an end of their travels.  Or, as Death tells one character during the story "Everyone gets a lifetime's worth."
It also has one of my favorite story endings ever, both apt and bittersweet.
I've been a huge Gaiman fan since this series came out, and I seriously feel this is required reading for anyone getting into it now.

BEST NOVEL BY SOMEONE I KNOW VIA THE INTERNET

Haven't read any of the recent Stefan Petrucha stuff or Sheryl Nantus', although Sheryl is coming out with a sequel to Blaze of Glory titled Heroes Without Monsters Within next month...

UNAVOIDABLE BOOK FRANCHISE OF DOOM

Anyone else notice how James Patterson is putting his name on a lot of books that seem to be written by other people?  Yeah, Tom Clancy kinda does the same thing.  But Patterson puts his mug on television ads shilling the works...

Hopefully by next year I'll have a job and a restock of my reading collection.  Til then...

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