Rest of the Best: 10 Best Novels Set in Houston

Houston continues to get wider and wider recognition in the world, but I still feel like it sometimes lacks an identity in the national consciousness. I mean, if someone tells you that a book takes place in New York City or Chicago, you can probably name a dozen books or movies or television shows that take place in those cities. By proxy, you have stories in your head that fit into those settings.

That's something Houston lacks, but we're getting better about it. Today we're going to look at ten of the best books that are set in H-Town

10. The Deal, by Becky Cochrane and Timothy Lambert
It's a gay romance novel, which might turn some people off, but the dialogue in The Deal is just unbeatable. Set in Montrose, it's about a group of friends fed up with their love lives who vow to find true love before next New Year's Eve. Yes, that is a corny as hell premise, and yes, it's a pretty predictable story, but the characters come to life in hilarious barbs and quips that will leave you howling. It's a great voice.

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Vote for Your Favorites in Our Readers' Choice Awards

It's time

We're getting ready for our annual Best of Houston issue which will hit the stands in early October.

This year's theme: We're gamblers willing to take chances and roll the dice. As a result, Houston has prospered and even when the pot gets low, we double down and rebound. And so do the people who live here in every category from restaurants to government to health to sports. Houston is holding a winning hand and we're going to tell everyone so in this year's Best of Houston.

The other important part of BOH -- besides our writers' picks -- is our Readers' Choice awards. That's where you tell us what you think the best places/people are in 99 categories as well as the category we forgot.

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Rest of the Best: 10 Best Houston Splash Parks

Magnus Franklin via Wikipedia
There are not enough words in all the languages of man to describe how hot it is in Houston right now. The sun rules us like a Pharaoh, only with more cruelty and sweat. You venture outside at your own peril, and if you do it's like being wrapped in wet towels that are also somehow on fire.

But, summer is also the time when schools stop watching our kids for us for free and if you want to keep them from trying to shove a cheese sandwich into your PS4 then it's good to get them out of the house. Luckily, there are splash parks all over the city full of sprinklers and water features for them to horse around in, and ever better, most of them are completely free!

A note: In general we're talking about play areas with water features, not actual water parks.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Small Museums

Courtesy of the National Museum of Funeral History
A fantasy coffin created by Ghanaian sculptor Kane Quaye
See that colorful sculpture above? That's more than art, that's a coffin. It's part of the fantasy coffin collection created by Ghanaian sculptor Kane Quaye at the National Museum of Funeral History. That's one of the reasons we like Houston's small museums - they offer the unexpected. Sure the blockbuster shows by the big outfits in the Museum District are wonderful (art by Picasso, Charles Marville, Soto, along with giant dinosaurs, elaborate Egyptian sarcophaguses, collections of famed jewels, what's not to like?), but they aren't often off-beat. Small museums can afford to be off-beat. They have a specialized audience who already loves them. True, the admission lines at the smaller museums don't wrap around the block like they do occasionally at the big three, but that's part of their appeal - no long lines or wall-to-wall visitors.

There are lots of museums that didn't make this list; Czech Center Museum Houston, Houston Maritime Museum, the Police Museum. All of them interesting with unique offerings, but this is a list of the top ten so we had to narrow it down.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Painters

Flamingo Fran by Shelbi-Nicole
Before we get to the list of Houston's Top 10 Painters, we'd like to make a quick statement about who isn't on this list. There are lots of talented, gifted local painters that we didn't mention here. That's not because we don't appreciate their work, but because we defined the term "painter" a little more narrowly than might be common. It helps us from comparing apples and oranges.

We didn't include any mixed-media artists. Yes, many of them use paint in creating their artwork, but we were looking specifically at artists who create work that is just painted. We didn't include any muralists here, either. Painting the side of a building and painting a 20-inch canvas aren't quite the same thing. Yes, both are paintings, but the differences in scale make it hard to compare the two. And we didn't include any out-of-town artists. There are several folks doing great work outside of Harris County, but this is a list of Houston's top 10 painters. (Thank you, Moe Profane, for kindly nominating yourself to this list, but as much as we like your work, including the recent exhibit at Redbud Gallery, you live in San Antonio.)

So, we looked at painters who work with just paint on canvas, wood or metal, painters who create works that are at least slightly smaller than the side of a building and painters who live in Houston. Here's the list.

This story continues on the next page.

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Rest of the Best: 10 Best Places to Go-Kart

Hey, Mario Kart 8 is out and that means there's no real reason for any person to go outside except to acquire food for a good long while. But kids, did you know that go-karts are a real thing that you can totally go and do for real? I mean, there are no blue shells involved, but go-kart racing is all over Houston. Want to try it out? Check out...

10. Gulf Coast Karters
29726 Stockdick Road

I'm ranking GCK so low because it's really a class by itself and shouldn't really be compared to the others on this list. Located in Katy, this track is the closest thing you'll actually get to Mario Kart. The track is nearly a mile long and can be run clockwise and counterclockwise for variety. It was totally repaved in 2003 with specially designed karting asphalt, so the ride is smooth and safe. So what's wrong with it?

Nothing, except that it's a professional motorsport track. You need a $300 yearly membership to join and you bring your own kart and pit crew. Alternatively, you can go watch the races for $5, which makes it pretty cheap for a spectator motorsport. Oh, and you have to be 18 to join. So unless you're more of a watcher than a driver or have the sort of money to plug into an expensive tiny car GCK probably isn't for you. If those do apply to you, though, it's the best.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Authors

Photo by George Hixson
Debut author Jennifer Mathieu
This year's list of Houston's Top 10 Authors includes a few firsts. For the first time we have a husband and wife who each made the list separately (Robert Boswell and Antonya Nelson). For the first time, we also have multiple authors with four or more releases in the last year (ReShonda Tate Billingsly and Sophie Jordan). We see our first graphic novelist on the list (Mat Johnson). And we have our first debut novelist to earn a spot on this list, former Houston Press writer (Jennifer Mathieu).

10. Jennifer Mathieu
The Truth About Alice

A young adult novel about a girl at the center of a fury of lies and gossip, Jennifer Mathieu's debut The Truth About Alice has been getting rave reviews from both critics and fans. Mathieu is a high school English teacher and says she loves teenagers. While she thinks her books would interest other age groups, she says her target audience is teens. "When I sit down and write, I picture teenagers reading my books," she told us in a recent interview. "I think teenagers are some of the most fascinating people on the planet and I certainly think of them as my audience."

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Rest of the Best: 10 Best UFO Sightings in Houston

The Day the Earth Stood Still
A lot of people believe that intelligent life has visited the Earth, and judging by some of the mail I get in this job it would definitely be the first time that's happened. All joking aside, the universe is a big place, and on a large enough scale all improbabilities become certainties. Maybe little green men have come here.

There are definitely some strange things in the sky over Houston, regardless. That's to be expected. Texas is the fourth most prolific state when it comes to UFO sightings. California is No. 1, followed by Washington and Florida. That link lists nearly 500 UFO sightings in Houston alone since 1954, and today we're going to look at the ten best.

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Rest of the Best: 10 Best Places to Study in Houston

Many of you are leaving school this month, probably screaming like mad people and vowing never to darken the doors of academia again. Others are preparing to enter college for the first time in the fall, and it's to that latter group I come bearing gifts. Specifically, the gift of a place to study.

Maybe you've got a quiet place at home, free from distractions, and if so then this song ain't about you. This one goes out to people with children, roommates of the rambunctious nature, and parents who just don't understand. If you want a great place for concentration I suggest...

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Rest of the Best: The 10 Best Houston Life Hacks

Sometimes the key to winning at life is finding ways to circumvent the normal method of living. Like an old NES game, you just have to have the cheat code. Today we're going to look at ten things that make living in Houston a little bit easier and more fun.

Star Pizza
Do you always take the free cheese and pepper that Star Pizza hands out with their pies even though you don't really put them on the pizza? Save those and add them to a regular old spaghetti dish for some extra style and flavor. It's perfect for someone single looking to spice up a cheap meal.

Oh, and when Thanksgiving rolls around be sure to pick up some barbecue sauce from Goode Co. to apply to your turkey leftovers. You will not regret it.

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