...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Read any good books last year?
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Something pretty ordinary here, but I haven't talked about books or reviewing yet. It's bound to come up from time to time. As will convention running.

Over on DorothyL, there's an annual "best books of the year" compilation. It drives my inner librarian crazy because while many folks pick only 2004 books, many don't and just list the best books - in this case, mysteries - they read in 2004. I get that, but I can't do it that way. I volunteered to compile the list this year, as no one else raised a hand. It's astonishing, the range; over 500 titles have been mentioned, books published as far back as the '50s and books that aren't eligible really, as they're 2005 titles.

I read hundreds of books each year and the only sane way for me to track is through what I review, and often, through my library holds, a list which disappears at the end of the year. I HAVE started to keep a list throughout the year, of both best mysteries and of "best first' mysteries so that if/when I nominate for the Anthony or another award, I don't have to go racing around. I can't imagine keeping a list of every book I read - ugh. That smacks, for me of a little TOO much time on my hands. Too something - compulsive? I dunno but it's too something. But then, I know people who go to basketball games and baseball games and track every basket, every pitch and keep the score sheets. For years. That creeps me out too.

My top ten lists often don't reach ten. Bookreporter asked for top 5 and I fumbled; I had a major top FOUR and then well, another six and couldn't choose, so I picked randomly - any other would have done as well. And I forgot I had options there. I mean no one said it had to be mystery fiction, it's just what I track and read most often. But when someone else listed AMERICA: THE BOOK I realized I had duh'ed. I did, at least, manage to put in my "holiday" book on their poll. As you may know, I'm an awful curmudgeon, especially around organized jollity and around "the holidays" (read "Christmas") and don't enjoy the season, can't pretend that I do and so "holiday reading" isn't of any interest to me. So, okay, but…well, this year, if I HAD given a "holiday" book, it woulda been Christopher Moore's THE STUPIDEST ANGEL. The man makes me laugh so much it hoits, it really hoits.

So my top lists for mystery fiction for 2004 read like this, in almost no special order.

BEST OF 2004

STONE CRIBS, Kris Nelscott
LAW OF RETURN, Rebecca Pawel
DEAD TO THE WORLD, Charlaine Harris
THE FALL, Michael Allen Dymmoch
DEEP POCKETS, Linda Barnes

Best first:

THE 37TH HOUR, Jodi Compton
DATING DEAD MEN, Harley Jane Kozak
MAD MONEY, Linda L. Richards

The only specific is that without a doubt, ABSENT FRIENDS was THE book of 2004 for me. In 2003, it was Laura Lippman's EVERY SECRET THING. Neither of these books was an easy read.

There were several other good mysteries that might have made my best of list if I'd expanded it. Laura's BY A SPIDER'S THREAD was a darn good book. I really enjoyed UNDER THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE by Irene Marcuse, and TAGGED FOR MURDER by Elaine Flinn. Jim Fusilli continues to impress; I recently read his HARD, HARD CITY. Madeleine Robins' POINT OF HONOR was really enjoyable. LIGHTS OUT by L T Fawkes got a good review from me. And there was stuff by Dana Stabenow, Olen Steinhauer, Bill Pronzini, Dan Fesperman, Sara Paretsky, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Steven Havill too. Anything by Jasper Fforde and Christopher Moore gets me going.

And while I didn't review much non-fiction, I know I must've read some good stuff. But I didn't track it. I can recommend ASTRO TURF: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF ROCKET SCIENCE by M. G. Lord. I met the author at the opening of the science fiction museum back in June. She mentioned this book she'd written, I mentioned I was a reviewer and poof, match made in heaven - or in Seattle.

The reviewing gigs continue to be challenging and fun. I've had to hone my reading skills and my writing skills and it continues to amaze and gratify me so that people like what I write. Linda Richards has given me the chance to go back to my first genre love. I'm reviewing, among other things, science fiction and fantasy for her over on January magazine. It's sort of cool finding out what's out there and jumping back in. It's a form of coming home I hadn't realized I missed. I'm also hoping to do more non-fiction reviews for January.

And 2005 started out with Mary Doria Russell's A THREAD OF GRACE, and I have the new Stephen White, MISSING PERSONS which I really liked and need to write up, and just finished the third Rebecca Pawel, A WATCHER IN THE PINE. She does amazing things with a difficult subject. Meanwhile, I get to finish up the Tiptree short story collection and the library van comes tomorrow (oh, yippee!) with books for ALL the good little children. And me too.

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