Best Reads of 2013

I have not kept track of the books I read this year. My Books I’ve Read page is empty for this year. That doesn’t mean I have not read anything – far from it. I just didn’t record any of them. I am also not sure I even remember most of them.

I have to figure – if I can’t remember a book, than it probably doesn’t belong on the Best Reads of 2013 list. No, the hard part about not writing the list down is that sometimes I am not sure if I read a book this year or last year, i. e. this past January or last December.

Up until today, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a Best Reads of 2013 list. Than I saw John‘s list and I am sure now. I will do it, list or no list.

I only listed five books. I think this list could have been bigger, if only I’d gotten around to reading some of the books I meant to read: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, Andromeda’s Choice by William C. Dietz, Shadows by Robin McKinley, The Human Division by John Scalzi, Sword-Bound by Jennifer Roberson, and many, many more.

1) River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. I wrote a blog post about it. All I have to say is, this is hands-down, one of the best fantasy books I’ve read this year. One of the best!!!!!! The ending left me disappointed, but it makes sense in the story, and there truly aren’t many other ways it could have ended. It’s hard to beat.

2) Drown by Junot Diaz. This is one the few non-fantasy/non-science fiction books I’ve read this year. It is a collection of stories, mostly connected, but some not. The title story, Drown, is very intense. This one did it for me. It packs a wallop in few words. The whole collection is very strong, and showed me in ways I’d not seen before, the power of a short story. I even used this book for a teaser Tuesday.

3) Written in Red by Anne Bishop. I am a big fan of Anne Bishop, and when she came out with a new urban fantasy, of course I had to read it. She did urban fantasy her own, in her own style. So the usual is that humans are in charge and others (werewolves, vampires, fae, whatever) are trying to make a place for themselves. Here it is the other way. The others are in charge and humans are trying to make a place for themselves. It’s not as horror-like as it sounds, though it could have gone that way.

4) Touch & Geaux by Abigail Roux. This is the latest in a funny, high-action romance. Ty and Zane are in New Orleans, where Zane learns some deep dark secrets and almost breaks up with Ty. He also almost asks Ty to marry him. But then Ty is recalled back into the armed forces! Ty goes, but not before outing them both at work. I’ve read that scene over and over and over. In fact, I’ve managed a couple of rereads of the whole book, it was so good.

5) The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir. This is one of the few non-fiction I read this year. I feel like I actually understand the War of the Roses now. It was clear, concise and interesting. Okay, so it is actually the first book I ever read on the War of the Roses, just articles and bits and pieces about it in other books. Even so. It’s a good book. I learned a lot.

Best Reads of 2012

I’ve read so many books this year I don’t remember all of them. So many books that reading interfered with the writing. Which is not okay, but I can accept it.

So these the best of the books I do recall reading. If there is one thing this list is based on, it is how memorable the books are, how much I liked it, how much I re-read each book. That list bit, re-rereading, probably puts a basis on books from the beginning of the year, since there’s been more time to re-read a book from January than the book I finished last week. At the same time, I am more likely to recall the book I finished yesterday than the book I finished in January. I figure that evens things out.

So in no particular order:

1) A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

I read A Natural History as an ARC, it comes out on February 5, 2013, and I still have to do a review on it. But let me just say it’s fabulous. It’s written as a memoir of a old lady who had the most fantastic adventures in her youth. She studies dragons, falls head long into danger and apparently does something for the cause of feminism. She also gets her husband killed, which leaves me wondering how she acquired the title Lady Trent. I like the matter-of-fact way this is written. I can almost believe this is a real memoir. It’s very different (and also much better IMO) than previous Marie Brennan books.

2) Goblin Quest by Jim Hines

Funny, full of adventure, and also has goblins as I never pictured them before. Fun to read and I cannot wait to get started on the next Goblin book.

3) Men Under the Mistletoe by Ava March, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon & K.A. Mitchell.

This is an ARC from last Christmas, one I only got around to reading in January of this year. ;) But it’s one I’ve re-read again and again and again. I said in the review that Winter Knights Harper Fox is the best story, but I keep re-reading the Lone Star by Josh Lanyon. I don’t actually understand why.

4) The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

This is another book I’ve re-read a few times. It’s good. I love love love the world and the main character. I want more books in this world. I don’t think Martha Wells has come close to plumbing the depths. Even if she chose a different main character, I wouldn’t mind, I love this world so much. It’s beautiful and magical and really vivid.

5) Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

This is probably the only non-fiction book on this list. It’s about imagination and creativity and how it all works. Very interesting.

6) Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read Stars & Stripes. A lot. I don’t know what it is, the romance, the ridiculous danger or the characters. This one is special is because the main characters come out to their family, act openly like a couple for maybe the first time. There is even talk of children. Next, they need to come out at work.

7) Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

I don’t know how long I waited for Bridge of Dreams to come out (ever since I heard about a new Anne Bishop book probably). It’s worth the wait and explores the word in far greater detail, has far more bizarre creatures than I dreamed even Anne Bishop to come with and make work. I loved it, and yes, this too is a book I’ve re-read a few times.

8) Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

I’m pretty sure Servant of the Underworld is a first novel and it is amazing. It doesn’t feel like a first novel at all. I can quite decide if this fantasy or urban fantasy or something in between, but whatever it is, this book pulls you in.

9) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this in a Best Reads list, but even though I never really re-read, it is still worth reading and not a book I am likely to forgot anytime soon so . . .

I don’t know what else to add. 9 are probably enough. But in case they are not, here are some honorable mentions:

1) Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold: I love Lois McMaster Bujold and I wanted to add this just for that, but I don’t think it stands out quite enough for a Best Read novel. :(

2) Cake by Derekica Snake

I feel that Cake could have been stand-out, but it’s missing something. I don’t know what. It’s a disturbing and exciting all at once, but it needs something.Memorable, though, if only for how disturbing it is.

3) Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Finished this just yesterday and fun fun fun read. Fun!!!! Also, quick. Took only a few hours to finish reading.

4) Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman

I love the setting, the system of magic. Very imaginative. I like the anti-hero. Very nice. But I am not sure about this one yet. I need a little bit more time to digest, I think. It falls in some bizarre science fantasy category, though I put it on my fantasy shelf.

Covers to come later!

Book Review: Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

Blurb from GoodReads:

When wizards threaten Glorianna Belladonna and her work to keep Ephemera balanced, her brother Lee sacrifices himself in order to save her-and ends up an asylum inmate in the city of Vision.

But a darkness is spreading through Vision, perplexing the Shamans who protect it. And Lee is the only one who can shed any light on its mysteries…

I enjoyed Bridge of Dreams. I have to say I am not sure I could have understood Bridge of Dreams if I hadn’t read the previous Ephemera books. Also, I am a big fan of Anne Bishop and I’d been looking forward to Bridge of Dreams for a long time before it came it out. IMHO, it ended too soon.

So. In last book, Belladonna, lost a bit of herself. In the aftermath of the last book, she changed. Our hero, Lee, isn’t comfy with those changes. Also, he’s not comfy with her SO.

The world-building, as always, is fantastic. Her world-building is one the reasons why I love Anne Bishop and she doesn’t disappoint in this book. Some of it takes a little getting used to. I mean, the idea of a three-in-one-person is a little weird? And the notion they all different lovers, also three-in-one? I think it can probably get a little confusing.

I suppose that’s one of the things I dislike – at the end, the guy ends with one of the three-in-one-person and how does that work? It never explains. I don’t want the nitty-gritty details, but I want something more.

Anyway. The things I really liked – the world, the characters. I really loved the first scene from the POV from the three-in-one-person. It was strange and wonderful and really odd, too. All three of them are different. And then, at the end, it became a lot more clear just what they all need. It was really cool to read.

But the ending. Thing is, it didn’t feel like a real ending. It felt like there could be more, a lot more. Not just one character, either, but quite a few of them. The story needs to continue! I need closure.

Z is for Zippy Last Lines

Ten of the zippiest last lines you will ever read! They are all from my favorite books. The Black Jewels trilogy, some from the Vor books by Lois McMaster Bujold and some books by Joey W. Hill. I have read all of these again and again and again.

  1. His heart held on fiercely to Jaenelle‘s soft, sighing caress of his name. Everything has a price. – Daughter of the Blood, book 1 of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop
  2. Gathering up his shredded courage, he walked toward the voices, toward the promise. Walked out of the Twisted Kingdom. – Heir to the Shadows, book 2 of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop
  3. This time, when she said his name, it sounded like a promise, like a lovely caress. – Queen of Darkness, book 3 of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop
  4. It wasn’t your life again you found, going on. It was your life anew. And it wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. His slow smile deepened. He was beginning to be very curious about his future. – Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold
  5. Really? You’d – you’d – yes, I’d be interested.” Kostolitz feigned a casual air. “Sure.” He looked suddenly much more cheerful. Miles smiled. – The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
  6. “They must be rounding up the strays for dinner. Shall we go in, milady?” – A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold.
  7. Miles settled back with slitted eyes, and watched the shining circle spin like planets. – Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold.
  8. In that moment, he knew any words of his would honor the truth as much as those flowery sonnets. “I think we did that.”  – Vampire Trinity by Joey W. Hill
  9. Strong, sexy exterior and steel core, with a generous, shy heart that was all his. Forever. His family. – Rough Canvas by Joey W. Hill
  10. He grinned, caught her lips in a kiss, swung her up in his arms. “Try it, sugar. Just try it.” – Natural Law by Joey W. Hill

The End

What are some of your favorite last lines?

Q is for Quest

Quests! They abound in fantasy. There are whole texts written on the subject.

In fact, quests appear so often they are almost cliché. (Tolkien might be responsible for this.) Almost is the key word here, though I am sure lots of people would argue quests are cliché.

I am not entirely certain my favorite fantasy story (the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop) falls prey to the quest storyline. I am pretty sure my own WiP doesn’t have a quest, either. But that’s a function of the MC character and his background. Though the mystery-ish part of the story might count as a quest – he wants answers after all. Not sure about that. The answers shake up his world, but no one else’s.

I suppose how cliché a quest is depends on the story. Lots of stories have the guy searching for the magical and discovering only he can save the world, from Lord of the Rings to  The Sword of Shannara to the Seeker to Harry Potter. Many myths have a quest, too.

I’ll admit I never cared much for the Seeker books, but the Sword of Shannara wasn’t that bad. Lots of people think the Harry Potter story very original, but IMHO, the world-building is fairly original and the characters are very appealing. The last book is a fairly straightforward quest – they need to find and destroy all these objects to kill the bad guy. In the first book, they needed to find the sorcerer’s stone (or philosopher’s stone, if your prefer).

So . . . yeah. I don’t think quests are cliché. They could be and it pretty much depends on the story probably. But I suppose you could say that for most supposed clichés.

Favorite Reads of 2011

John is hosting a bloghop where you list the best books your read in 2011. Not books that were published in 2011, but ones I read this year. That’s good, as I read a few older books this year. ;) I am listing them randomly.

I was going to post ten, but I can’t make up my mind on the last one. Decided to leave it out. I was between Bound by a Vampire Queen by Joey W. Hill or New York to Dallas by JD Robb.

  1. Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton. In high school, the Anita Blake series was on my automatic read list. (I spent months waiting for the library to get me her backlist! Months!) But not lately because, well, the sex kind of took over. But this book is different; there is only 1 sex scene and there are signs the old Anita Blake is back. I put this book is on this list out of sheer relief. Hit List isn’t my last AB book! Plus, Edward and Olaf are in it. My favorite assassin and the smitten serial killer.
  2. Play Dead by John Levitt. This is the fourth and possibly last book in this series. Play Dead is on this list because he totally destroys his characters at the end. He takes away their magic. How many urban fantasies are there where the main characters lose all their magic? Not many. Got to admire that. Plus, it’s just a really good adventure.
  3. Twilight’s Dawn by Anne Bishop. This is a short story collection by Anne Bishop, set in her Black Jewels world. It is fantastic. It came out this year, but I’ve already reread each story several times. I even blogged about it here.
  4. Divide & Conquer by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux. This is the fairly intense romantic suspense,  fourth in the series and the last one Madeleine Urban is cowriting. Abigail Roux is on her own from here on out. The main characters, Ty and Zane, are FBI agents and partners. Zane finally admits he loves Ty. Ty thinks it’s passion talking at first, but he believes Zane the second time. ;) IMO, it’s got just the right mix of romance and suspense. Bombs and robberies and mischief. Plus, Ty comes out to his friends from when he was a marine.
  5. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. This is the first book I’ve read by him and it blew me away. It’s hard to describe.  The world is inspired by China’s Tang dynasty. The premise sounds ridiculous – a gift of 250 horses turns the main character  into a target – but it’s not. The world is gorgeous, I like the main character. It’s not the fastest book in the world and the ending is a bit rushed, but it is still pretty amazing. The way he switches between present and past tense is pretty interesting. I am going to read his other stuff soon.
  6. Carnelians by Catherine Asaro. This is the latest in a series I’ve been following for a long, long time. Don’t recall how many books there are, but a lot. It brings together ideas from books she wrote a long time ago. With this book, I can believe peace is finally possibly in this world. Maybe not in the character’s lifetime, but at some point.
  7. Dune by Frank Herbert. Still as good as the day it was first published. ;)
  8. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. This is the book I wanted all of last year (and the year before that!). It is a middle book and has some of the symptoms of a middle book, but I am not disappointed. Considering how long I’d wanted it and how excellent the first book was, that’s saying something.
  9. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. I posted something on G+ and a few people recommended this book to me. I read the preview on Google Books and then decided to get the whole thing. I learned lots and lots of things I never knew before. Some of it bears a little more investigation on my part, but still worth reading.

Teaser Tuesday: Kaeleer’s Heart

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I was rereading this yesterday.

My Teasers:

Moon’s blood only throws my offstride three days out of a month. A cock makes a man potentially stupid at any hour of the of any day.

- Kaeleer’s Heart by Anne Bishop