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The Book Smugglers’ Favorite Reads of 2009

With 2010 fast and furiously approaching (seriously, where has 2009 gone!?), we inevitably start looking back at the books we’ve read and loved this year and the ones we are looking forward to reading in 2010.

Ana’s Favourites:

2009 marked a huge change in my reading habits with The Return of the Fantasy to my book shelves. I had grown slightly bored with the genre but reading Fantasy blogs and some awesome reviews made me want to resume my Fantasy reading. And I am glad I did because, dear lord, I found out totally awesome, squeeworthy authors and books. These are my favourite Fantasy reads of 2009:

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I know I am late with the love but once I read The Name of the Wind earlier this year, I felt the earth move, the universe open and everything changed for me: this was the book that reminded me of how much I love the genre, and it is now the book that I compare others to. Probably unfair, but who cares, Patrick Rothfuss’ prose is beautiful in itself, I don’t even care what he is writing about (I lie, I do care. But you get my drift).

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Another author I found out this year and she rocked my world too. The best part though is that unlike Patrick Rothfuss, she has quite the backlist. Her writing is beautiful and her worlds evocative; her protagonists are all strong, smart females and all of her books have a strong romantic element that speaks directly to my heart.

The Queen’s Thief series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia) by Megan Whalen Turner

Ok, so technically these books are shelved as YA but I think they have great crossover potential. The protagonist, Eugenides, is one of my all time favourites and the series has a great mix of adventure, politics, mythology, twists and surprises and a great romance; plus the first book has an unreliable narrator to boot. What is not to love?

Ana’s Most Wanted Fantasy for 2010:

After reading the above, it should come as no surprise that my most anticipated reads of 2010 are:

  1. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  2. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

And one debut author that I am looking forward to read:

  1. Sam Sykes’ Tome of the Undergates

Thea’s Favorites:

Although I didn’t really experience such a dramatic shift in my reading habits as Ana did (I’ve been the non-romance reading, speculative fiction junkie component of The Book Smugglers since inception), I did make an effort to read a wider variety of age groups this year, and found myself drawn even more than usual to the full awesomeness of Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian fiction. As such, here are my favorite fantasy/horror/SF reads of 2009…

Flood and Ark by Stephen Baxter

Science fiction fans are probably familiar with Stephen Baxter (hard SF author, VP of the H.G. Wells Society, multiple Locus/Hugo/Philip K. Dick/BSFA award winner/nominee), but this was my year to “discover” him. And holy crap, I have found a new author that completely knocks my socks off. His latest duology, Flood and Ark are stirring apocalyptic novels about the end of humanity due to the “leaking” of a subterranean sea that obliterates ALL land on the planet – and humanity’s will to survive as it looks to the stars for a future home. No shit, Ark is my favorite read of 2009 (so far) and the only book written this year that I felt compelled to give a perfect 10 rating. Thank goodness Mr. Baxter has an extensive backlist for me to glom through, while I await his next novel.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

A post-apocalyptic tale in a world ravaged by zombies – except they’re not really called zombies in the book. Carrie Ryan’s debut novel was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2009, and whooboy did it DELIVER. This is a stirring, haunting tale about love and loss in a small town doomed for disaster, with the “unconsecrated” (that’s the walking dead) pressing in on all sides.

The Gone Books by Michael Grant (Gone, Hunger)

Michael Grant’s ongoing series might sound a little familiar – it’s about a small coastal town in Northern California, cut off from the rest of the world by an impossible forcefield-like dome. One day, everyone over the age of 14 vanishes in the small town, leading to a Lord of the Flies de-evolution of society as children fend for themselves. Oh yeah, they also develop strange mutative superpowers, divide into two camps of leadership, and basically succeed in nearly annihilating each other. And, of course, there’s a lurking evil waiting in the town too. If this sounds somewhat like Stephen King’s Under the Dome meets the X-Men meets William Golding, well, it’s supposed to. And these books take the best of those works and weaves them into something new, terrifying and brilliant. These may be marketed as Young Adult – but there’s nothing YA about kids maiming themselves and tearing each other apart with semiautomatic weapons.

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Kaaron Warren’s debut novel comes through new Harper Collins imprint Angry Robot, and was selected as one the imprint’s launch titles. And, I can wholeheartedly say that this was an incredibly wise decision on the part of AR; Slights is one of the most profoundly disturbing psychological horror novels I have read in a very, very long time (let me put it this way – it’s right on par with the feeling I got after reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves or Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho). Kaaron Warren is a horror savant, and an author I will be watching very closely.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages)

Ana and I were again late to the party with Brandon Sanderson, but we both devoured his Mistborn books this year and basically loved them. Though I think the first novel (The Final Empire) is easily superior to the next two, I cannot help but be impressed by this solid, unique trilogy of books. Saying Brandon Sanderson has a knack for worldbuilding is like saying Neil Gaiman has a decent imagination – I was simply blown away by his creation of a magic system unlike anything I had ever seen before. Though his characterizations need a little work, how can I (the plot-junkie) complain when the political machinations and twists and turns are so compelling? Clearly, another author I have to stalk online.

Thea’s Most Highly Anticipated Speculative Fiction for 2010:

Well, like Ana said, given how much I loved the above, some of my most highly should come as no surprise.

  1. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (companion novel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth)
  2. Lies by Michael Grant (book 3 in the Gone series)
  3. The Hunger Games book 3 by Suzanne Collins (unannounced title for the final volume in The Hunger Games trilogy)
  4. This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (her Moon Crush books are among my favorites of All Time)
  5. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (the final volume of his Chaos Walking series – which is absofreakinglutely FANTASTIC)
  6. Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey (an ongoing fantasy series from one of my all time favorite authors)

And that is it from us! We could go on for days about books we have read and are looking forward to – but we want to hear from YOU. What books have you read and loved this year? What are your most anticipated reads of 2010? We’re all ears!


Ana Grilo and Thea James are two completely obsessed, sad, sick addicts when it comes to books. Faced with threats and cynicisms from their significant others because of the massive amounts of time and money they spend feeding their shared addiction, they resorted to getting books delivered to their offices and then smuggling them home in huge handbags to avoid detection. Thus, the Book Smugglers were born. Reviews, recommendations, and other ponderings are their specialty.

You can follow Ana and Thea online at their blog, The Book Smugglers, on Twitter, or as new bloggers on Tor.com (as SmugglerAna and SmugglerThea).