Saturday, December 31, 2011

TopDragon Awards 2011
Well folks, even though I don't actively blog about reading books here anymore, (moved to Goodreads) I thought I'd post my best of 2011 list for you.  As a reminder, most of these books weren't published in 2011; in fact, I read very few "current" books (other than Advanced Reading Copies).  I went through a big change with my reading habits this year, having begun a new job on January 2nd which requires that I commute for over an hour to work each way.  That means two whole hours of audio book pleasure every weekday.  I also began reading quite a bit on my new Nook Color e-reader so, all told, I had a record reading year (see stats at the end of this post).  I pick my winners for these awards based simply on how much I enjoyed them, not how well they were written or how much the reading community likes them.  So...drumroll they are:

Best Fact
Titan—The Life of John D. Rockefeller
Ron Chernow

Best Classic
The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

Best Historical
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett

Best Mystery
Naked Heat
Richard Castle

Best Adventure/Thriller
Point of Impact
Stephen Hunter

Best Western
Louis L’Amour

Best General Fiction
Hearts in Atlantis
Stephen King

Best Young Adult Novel/Story
The Amber Spyglass
Philip Pullman

Best Horror
Heart-Shaped Box
Joe Hill

Best Science Fiction
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Best Fantasy
Brandon Sanderson

Best Short Story Collection
Shadows From the Past
Harlan Ellison

Graphic Novel
No Future For You
Joss Whedon

Sleeper Award
Halfway to the Grave
Jeaniene Frost

And the TopDragon Award for the Best Overall Book read in 2011 goes to....

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Runner-ups: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Of course it is very difficult to pick winners so here are Honorable Mention winners, and all highly recommended for your reading pleasure:

Decision Points—George W. Bush

Lad: A Dog—Albert Payson Terhune

Rise to Rebellion/Glorious Cause—Jeff Shaara

Only Time Will Tell—Jeffrey Archer

Blue Horizon—Wilbur Smith

True Evil—Greg Isles

Nightfall/Wildfire—Nelson DeMille

Still Life With Crows—D. Preston/L. Child

Coup D’Etat—Ben Coes

Hour Game—David Baldacci

Kiss the Girls—James Patterson

Blaze—Stephen King

Gateways—F. Paul Wilson

Strange Affair/Spring-Heeled Jack-Mark Hodder

Something Rotten-Jasper Fford

The Drawing of the Three-Stephen King

The Ghost King-RA Salvatore

Hounded-Kevin Hearne

For those that really just have to know everything about are my reading stats for the year:

Total Books Read = 135
(+ 10 Graphic Novels)

Total e-books = 23

Total Audio Books = 25

Total Pages Read = 54,638

Total Short Stories/novellas/essays = 53

Pages per Day =  149.7

Books per Week =  2.6

And as one last reminder, if you'd care to follow my reviews on these books and pretty much all of the books I read, look for me on

(specifically, here: )

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That's All Folks

This is the last blog entry I will be posting here. I have mixed feelings about this blogging experience but at least I feel I have given it a good try for two complete years. I never really intended to attract a following, but I had hoped the follower list would gradually increase. It seems there is very little interest in the blogosphere for what I offer. I do very much appreciate the occasional comment I have received, most especially from "Captain D" my friend from across the sea. I will continue to follow his blogs with interest.

The New Year has brought a new full-time job for me. Coupling that with increased responsibilities at home leaves me with fewer hours than seem to be available. Something had to give and since I would rather read than write about reading, I've decided to relegate this blog to the virtual dust piles of history. I plan to maintain my current minimal presence on "Goodreads" but that will have to suffice.

Thanks for your support,

Ben Thomas

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Target

In the interest of full disclosure, the author of this book sent me a free signed copy in return for a review.

The Target, written by first time author Bill Bowen offers a unique perspective on the modern day terrorist/thriller novel.  Whereas MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) worked fairly well during the Cold War in keeping the superpowers from attacking each other, could that same idea work with today's terrorism?

The plot of this novel surrounds Mike Curran, an ex-soldier now living in Chicago working in financial markets.  When a terrorist dirty bomb attack on Union Station injures and ultimately kills his wife, Mike comes up with an idea to turn the tide on the terrorists by making a similar attack, or at least demonstrating the possibility of such an attack on that which is most sacred to them: Mecca. Mike hopes when they see how terrorism can work both ways, it will be an effective detterent.

The concept of the novel is unique, at least in my experience.  The author is very knowledgeable about current events and, indeed, wields an impressive resume that lends credence to what he is talking about.  The plot is pretty well constructed but I felt the characters need a bit more work.  Mr Bowen falls into the rookie trap of having a lot to say, so much so that several scenes of dialogue turn into lectures...valuable information for the reader to have but not presented realistically.  Some of this information could have been handled a little better and could have served to flesh out the characters more at the same time.  He does a great job of showing just how easily such a terrorist attack could occur though.  Very believable, even disturbingly so.

Overall, this is a solid first novel; very readable and offering some thought provoking concepts, especially when it comes to deterrence, or the lack thereof when it comes to dealing with terrorism and nuclear weapons.

Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire