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Mostly Fiction's
Top Picks for 2001

These are my top picks for the year based on the books that I reviewed. This is never easy because I don't feel like I read enough books in a year. So by no means should this be considered an all inclusive list of "best of the year." It is a list of some of the best books that I had a chance to read. And I'm sure it's complete. Nonetheless, these books are selected for their quality of writing, creativity and lasting impression. See all books reviewed in 2001

The Weight of All Things by Sandra Benitez

The Weight of All Things at amazon.comSet in El Salvador in 1980, it chronicles 6 weeks of a nine-year old boy's life as he searches for his mother in a country controlled by two warring factions. I put this novel at the top of my list as a gentle reminder that war is not the answer. It's always a matter of where one stands that seems to define an act of terrorism. This novel puts a human face on war showing that the true losers are always the ones that are being "protected."

Ella Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea at Amazon.comThis is a very clever and humorous novel about Nollop, an island nation that idealizes the originator of the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." One day when the letter Z
falls off the cenotaph in town, the Council decides to make it
illegal to speak or write words with this letter, turning this into
a "lipogrammatic" tale as more letters drop one by one. Dunn has written a humorous satire on the fragility of our civil rights.

Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World by Walter Mosley

Futureland at amazon.comFutureland is a series of interlocking stories that take place only a generation or so away. Like any well founded science fiction writer, Mosley extrapolates from today's socioeconomic and technological trends to come up with a seemingly advanced world, but in truth, not too different from our own, only more extreme; the rich are very rich, the middle class are tightly controlled, and the poor have no rights at all.

The Giuliana Legacy by Alexis Masters

The Giuliana Legacy at amazon.comThis novel is absolutely captivating. It's hard to imagine, but this writer has managed to capture the feeling of true joy through a character in a novel. Her success can be attributed to her in depth research regarding the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and other ancient religions as well as expression of her own personal belief system and then tying this all together into a very wonderful novel. The hypnotic quality of her tale mad me shut out everything around me propelling me into Julia's beautiful world.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections at amazon.comBy now anyone who has heard of this novel most likely associates it with the brew-ha-ha over Franzen's attitude after the Corrections was chosen as an Oprah Book of the Month. Personally, I think Oprah's Club made a good choice. Anyhow, the book is destined to be popular and read by many and will probally win a few more awards, having just been selected by The National Book Award.

The Corrections is nimble, despite its many complications and intertwining details. In all its truth about family and marriage, it's really funny. There are so many scenes in this novel that had me chuckling out loud. As we meet each Lambert, its fun to discover how the title gets worked in. I found it surprising as to how many different meanings that Franzen ekes out, including the obvious reference to the adjustment in the stock market.

And as time goes on, I find myself wanting to re-read this novel.

The Absence of Nectar by Kathy Hepinstall

The Absence of Nectar at amazon.comTwelve year old Alice Fendar knows the "jig is up." Her stepfather, Simon Jester is going to kill her and her older brother Boone and their mother is going to let it happen.

This is Hepinstall's second novel and shows how powerful of a writer she is. With her unconventional characters and knack for story telling, she reminds me of John Irving.

Two Truths and a Lie by Katrina Kittle

Two Truths and a Lie at Amazon.comDair Canard is an habitual liar. She started to lie after telling one truth that caused her schoolmates to laugh at her. She continued lying whenever the truth was too boring. On the day she met Peyton she told a lie she couldn't undo and now, after eight years of marriage, it's eating away at her. But this isn't her only lie, she's an alcoholic in denial. At the opening of this novel, Dair's life is suddenly plunged into a state of chaos when she realizes the man who just threw himself across her hood, dashing between idling bumpers, and then hurling himself over the guardrail to his death, is their best friend and neighbor. While Dair suspects murder, it seems that she is not the only liar.

Kittle has a real knack for writing about the things we like to avoid (alcoholism in this one, AIDS in the last one) and making us want to read on.

Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker

Silent Joe at Amazon.comJoe Trona, at age 24, is already hard-boiled. During the day, he's a Deputy for the Orange County Sheriff's Department assigned to work at the Central Jail Complex, as are all new deputies. At night, he is Will Trona's driver. But on this one fateful night, while retrieving a kidnapped girl, the Trona's are trapped in an alley by a gang and Will Trona is killed. And with the aid of his eidetic memory, Joe pieces together the truth of his father's night business.

Joe Trona is the "acid baby," so dubbed by the media after his birth father poured a cup of acid on his 9-month old face leaving him scarred for life and his forever indebted to his parents for adopting him. Joe Trona is a complex character and Parker fleshes him out with some very unusual and unforgettable details. And the story is good from start to finish.

Dervish is Digital by Pat Cadigan

Dervish is Digital at Amazon.comThis is a cyberpunk mystery. If you haven't tried this type of novel, but like an intellectual challenge, then you are in for a real treat with this one. Cadigan knows how to bend the mind.

Detective Lieutenant Doré Konstantin is Chief Officer in charge of TechnoCrime, Artificial Reality Division. As such she spends much of her day in a very expensive hotsuit jacked into an environment that, by its very design, is a lie. Her job is to prove copyright infringement, product piracy, industrial espionage, theft of credit, fraud and confidence games, all which she privately refers to as "aggravated mopery and dopery," further exasperated since nothing in AR constitutes a legal contract. So when AR is a lie, how does one go about an investigation?

Fixer Chao by Han Ong

Fixer Chao at Amazon.comI just love the concept behind this book! William Narciso Paulinha is drinking in his usual seedy bar when he's approached by Shem C with a clever plan. He wants William (although Filipino and not Chinese, but who in New York City can tell the difference) to imitate a Feng Shui Master so that they can use Shem C's connections to earn some good cash off some very rich people.

If this novel were only about the confidence game that Shem C cooks up, the novel would be interesting and even humorous, but this novel extends far deeper, taking into account the meaning of the immigrant experience in America, raising questions of race and privilege, of character and identity and finally, it takes a look at the end of the possession laden century. It reminds me of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities not in its style but in its excoriating view of the upper-crust society in New York City.

The Popejoys of Pistolburg by C. Mike Reid

The Popejoys of Pistolburg at Amazon.comHere's another great scam novel. Bosco Popejoy comes up with a unique get-rich-quick plan. Why not sell some lake front property to an unaware out-of-stater? When he meets up with his high school crush and finds out that she's got a really good criminal mind, the two of them are off and running. But forwarned this is not a plan cooked up by a couple of brain surgeons!

This novel had me chuckling all the way to the end. Every one of the characters has some quirky habit that's hard to forget. C. Mike Reid succeeds in juggling the plot between the real land owners, the would-be marks, and all of the supporting events that in one way or another help this haphazard scam come to fruition.

All Books Reviewed in 2001

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All Books Reviewed in 2000

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