A Post to Keep Me Honest

Also known as a list of books in my TBR pile that I really need to read over 2014, as opposed to just saying I’m going to read them ūüėČ

Pulling this list together has highlighted a bit of a pattern – they’re mostly hefty tomes (or at least I imagine them to be!) and/or the start of a series, and the (possibly imaginary) time commitment is putting me off a bit. ¬†I’ve read Elizabeth Wein, Martha Wells, and Juliet Marillier (obviously!) before, but these are new series and… I’m a bit daunted.

In no particular order:

17333324Ann Leckie‘s ANCILLARY JUSTICE (SF): I mentioned this in my year-end wrap up posts, but I have not read a single negative review of Ann Leckie’s debut SF novel. ¬†That’s pretty amazing in itself.

Elizabeth Wein‘s THE WINTER PRINCE (historical fantasy): Chachic’s EWein Special Ops week back in December convinced me I had to make time for Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunters series, and so it’s the most recently-acquired on this list…

127455Scott Lynch‘s THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA (fantasy): Everything about this series sounds great – except possibly for the fact it isn’t finished yet? ¬†The third book in the Gentleman Bastard series came out last year, and reminded me that I’ve the first book still to read.

Patrick Rothfuss‘s THE NAME OF THE WIND (fantasy): There are a lot of diehard Rothfuss fans out there, and I picked up this book when the Kindle version was on offer last year.

112077Dorothy Dunnett‘s THE GAME OF KINGS (fantasy historical fiction – thanks Nathan!): Hang out in romancelandia long enough, and you’ll see references to Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, usually accompanied with the “must read if you’re in the mood for twisty complicated protagonists” kind of recs. ¬†My excuse has been they were difficult to buy – not any more as they’ve been released in digital format, and the first one is on my Kindle…

Elizabeth Bear‘s DUST (SF): Another book I’ve had for ages, plus I’ve been meaning to explore Bear’s backlist in more depth.

Martha WellsRaksura trilogy (fantasy): I’ve pretty much devoured her older backlist books – don’t ask me why I’ve not yet cracked open her newer trilogy.

13122293Emma Bull‘s WAR FOR THE OAKS (urban fantasy): I’ve heard this described as the first-ever urban fantasy. ¬†So it’s obviously on the must-read list, right? ¬†Even if it’s just so I can say I’ve read it. ¬†Just joking.

Susanna Kearsley’s THE SHADOWY HORSES¬†(romance): Every time someone posts a glowing (and yes, it’s always glowing) Susanna Kearsley review, I eye that Kearsley lurking on my bookshelves and swear I’m going to read it. ¬†I haven’t yet.

Juliet Marillier‘s THE DARK MIRROR (fantasy): I usually haunt the bookstore for Juliet Marillier’s new releases – there’s no reason why I haven’t started her older Bridei Chronicles… except I haven’t.

So that’s mine – do you have similar books lurking in your TBR pile? ¬†Or tell me something to convince me to pick up one of these!

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New Year, New Links

Recent links that have caught my eye:

Books for January

I’ve not that many January new releases on my list of books to buy – I think that’s been true for previous years as well. ¬†I suspect January is a quiet time for those authors/genres I like to read.

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17938355Julie Hyzy‘s HOME OF THE BRAISED¬†(cosy mystery): A new White House Chef mystery has signalled January to me for the past six or so years, and 2014 is no exception. ¬†I’ve had both hits and misses with this series, but a new Ollie Paras book is always on my to-read list.

With the pressure of an upcoming state dinner that could make or break the president‚Äôs foreign policy, White House executive chef Olivia Paras has precious little time to focus on her wedding plans‚ÄĒor to catch a murderer¬Ö.

Tensions are running high as the White House staff adjusts to a new chief usher and prepares for a high-stakes state dinner, where everything must be perfect. But as the date for the event approaches, things go disastrously wrong when the secretary of defense is found dead in his home, seemingly killed during a break-in.

At the same time Olivia‚Äôs fianc√©, Gav, is looking into the mysterious murder of an old friend. Is there a connection? Despite an increase in security following the secretary‚Äôs death, Ollie learns the president is in imminent danger at the dinner and must do everything in her power to get to him‚ÄĒbefore it‚Äôs too late.

Out Jan 7

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18074870KJ CharlesA CASE OF POSSESSION (m/m romance/fantasy): I wasn’t surprised to see KJ Charles’ debut novel THE MAGPIE LORD pop up on various Best of 2013 lists, and I’m glad the next book in the series is out so soon.

Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.

Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.

The rats are closing in, and something has to give…

Warning: Contains m/m sex (on desks), blackmail, dark pasts, a domineering earl, a magician on the edge, vampire ghosts (possibly), and the giant rats of Sumatra.

Out Jan 28

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Also, technically a February release, but Sharon Lee‘s CAROUSEL TIDES should be available from Baen midway through January. ¬†I loved the first book, CAROUSEL SEA,¬†and am looking forward to returning to her otherworldly Archers Beach.

Have I missed any of your January must-reads?

A (Partial) 2013 Survey + Looking Ahead to 2014

I managed to start off the year by accidentally marking all posts in my feed reader as read. ¬†Whoops! ¬†While it’s hopefully not an omen for the year ahead, it’s kind of refreshing to look at Feedly and think I’m completely up-to-date with everyone’s posts ūüėČ

best-books-2013

Anyway, I’ve been seeing the 2013 End of Year Survey hosted by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner pop up around the internets. ¬†I wanted to do it – I even started drafting the post, but then realised that most of the answers would be along the lines of Parr, Pacat, Doyle & MacDonald, Wells, Elliott, Cross, Ryan… rinse & repeat…

I’m serious.

And while I’d love to gush a bit more about how I loved all their books, it would make for a pretty boring post. ¬†So I decided that I’m going to cheat a bit and only answer the questions where the answers WEREN’T any of those above. ¬†I know. ¬†I’m a rebel, right?

Here goes:


2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Well.

I feel like this is sort of a negative way to start off the post, but then again, I skipped question #1, which was Best Books You Read in 2013.  Serves me right.

I mentioned this in my annual wrap-up post, but most of the series books I was anticipating just didn’t hit it out of the park for me. ¬†Not that they were letdowns or anything, but I WANTED MORE.

So while an answer could be most of them, that’s only because I had really high expectations for a lot of books (and to be fair, I marked most of them as 4 star reads on GR anyway). ¬†However, one book that didn’t quite work for me was Sharon Lee & Steve’s Miller‘s TRADE SECRET, which was depressing¬†because I’d been looking forward to a sequel to BALANCE OF TRADE for so long. ¬†But I never connected with the main protagonist nor cared enough to follow the obscure-ish plot(s). ¬†I eventually finished the book, but it was a bit of a drag.

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7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Elle Kennedy‘s HOTTER THAN EVER – I don’t think I’ve ever read a¬†m√©nage¬†√† trois¬†book before, but I was convinced by the Dear Author review.

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10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

13578466I love this Goodreads covers view of my 2013 books¬†(even though I’m still in the process of listing all my 2013 reads). ¬†I actually think most of the covers are fantastic, and there’s a real mix of styles – from retro¬†to¬†romantic, from¬†atmospheric¬†to just plain intriguing.

If I had to pick one (and obviously it would be one that I haven’t added to GR yet), it would probably be Sharon Shinn‘s ROYAL AIRS, and not¬†just because the colours match my blog… ¬†I love the ethereal feel, which contrasts quite nicely with that steely look of determination on Josetta’s face.

Jonathan Barkat was listed as the cover illustrator – I think he also did the cover for the previous book, TROUBLED WATERS.

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13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? and 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling

I grouped these two questions together as Elizabeth Wein‘s WWII novel ROSE UNDER FIRE would be the answer to both. ¬†ROSE was hard-hitting and powerful in ways I didn’t anticipate, and I closed the book thinking “lest we forget”. ¬†I’m glad she wrote it, and I’m glad I read it.

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19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

All my very favourite books for the year were from new-to-me authors, so here are two I haven’t mentioned yet:¬†Anne Bishop‘s WRITTEN IN RED¬†(not perfect and problematic in places, but it hit the right spot) and¬†Andrea K H√∂st‘s HUNTING¬†(added to the list of YA fantasies I’d recommend).

And to be honest, pretty much everything Ilona Andrews and Kelly Hunter released in 2013.

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25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Seanan McGuire‘s INDEXING was a very fun and imaginative take on fairytales – and I say that as someone who generally does not get on with fairytale retellings. ¬†It was released as a Kindle serial in the US, but only in book form in the UK – while I grumbled about not having the weekly episodes, I’m glad I got to read the entire story in one go!

Speaking of serials, I did read John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION in serial form, and Episode #7, “The Dog King”, was hilarious.

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And looking ahead to 2014:

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

Ann Leckie‘s ANCILLARY JUSTICE – everyone and their mother appears to be loving this debut SF. ¬†It’s on my Kindle now, so no excuses!

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2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

What, just one?  Here are four:

A new Andrea K H√∂st¬†hopefully, fingers crossed – though she’s said that she may not release anything during 2014.

The next New York Leopards book by Allison Parr (I swear I read somewhere it’s Abe’s book – I hope so!). ¬†Oh, I’ve obviously lifted my moratorium on mentioning these authors for 2014 ūüėČ

Sarah Rees Brennan‘s TELL THE WIND AND FIRE¬†is a YA fantasy retelling of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which sounds incredibly fun.

And Anne Bishop‘s MURDER OF CROWS¬†(the follow-up to WRITTEN IN RED) is due out in March.

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3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don’t really track debut authors, so I’m totally going to cheat and say¬†Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (April 2014). ¬†This is Addison’s debut work, but it’s Sarah Monette writing under a new name.

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4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

CS Pacat‘s conclusion to her Captive Prince trilogy – I’m really hoping this is a 2014 release.

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5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

Umm… the usual. ¬†Post more, comment more, read more from that TBR mountain of mine…

2013: The Summary

Happy New Year!

Here’s my annual wrap-up post for 2013 (2012 summary¬†for comparison) – it’s a long one, so settle in.

My Very Favourite Books of 2013

I’ve felt like this year hasn’t been a fantastic reading year for me in terms of keeper books, and looking back at the list of books I’ve read this year, the number of 5-star reads support that feeling – I’ve only had seven (compared to the usual ten or more) books on this list. ¬†It’s a personal list and I’d be the first to admit that these aren’t necessarily technically perfect, but they’re the stories that just… work for me – I kind of wander around for a few days afterwards just thinking about the world and characters (please say I’m not the only one!).

Interesting (to me, anyway) things about this list

  • They’re all by new-to-me authors, so either my usual favourite authors didn’t wow me with their 2013 books or I had too high expectations for their releases – I suspect the actual answer’s somewhere between the two.
  • Three of them are for the final books in their respective series/trilogies – so if I’m being honest, the 5 stars are really for the series as a whole, as opposed to the book listed here.
  • I’m going old-school with this list – four out of the seven were released prior to 2013 (as you can probably tell by the some of the covers – love them!).

Enough rambling – here are my favourite books of 2013 (in the order in which I read them, more or less):

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Allison Parr‘s RUSH ME (new adult): I actually gave this 4 stars to start off with, but then (a) I kept on thinking about Rachael and Ryan and (b)¬†did a re-read (I usually never do re-reads, much less in the same year), and loved their romance so much that I ended up bumping up my grade. ¬†Escapism romance + messiness of first love/lust + NYC brought to life = keeper.

CS Pacat‘s CAPTIVE PRINCE Vols 1 and 2¬†(M/M fantasy romance): Listing both together, as they’re two halves of the same book, IMO, though it was really Volume 2 that elevated this series to one of my favourites of the year. ¬†I’m excited that Berkley snapped up these self-pubbed books because it’s an amazing story and deserves a wider audience. ¬†Although be warned, these books aren’t for everyone –¬†they’re certainly trigger-y (at least, the first book is), but that incredibly intriguing Damen/Laurent relationship combined with court intrigue and politics took over my head for a few days, and I cannot wait to see where Volume 3 takes us.

Debra Doyle & James D MacDonald‘s BY HONOR BETRAY’D (SF): I had the first book in the Mageworlds series in my TBR pile forever, and finally got around to reading it – and then promptly glommed the rest of the trilogy. ¬†I’ve a soft spot for space opera in general, but what elevated these books above the rest was the sheer twistiness of plot reveals. ¬†Clever and excellent fun.

PB Ryan‘s A BUCKET OF ASHES (historical mystery): The first book transported me straight into 1860s Boston, and I was immediately hooked on not just the mysteries, but a slow-burning (and surely impossible) romance. ¬†This sixth and final book was the culmination of the series-long romance arc – and¬†PB Ryan totally delivered.

Julie Cross‘s LETTERS TO NOWHERE (YA): I was not expecting to enjoy this YA as much as I did. ¬†The elite gymnastics aspect wasn’t just wallpaper¬†– everything rang true, especially that positive yet competitive friendships which were portrayed to perfection. ¬†Plus sweet romance and feelings that left a lump in your throat.

Kate Elliott‘s JARAN (SF): I’m not sure how I’ve not read this before, but I¬†loved this old-school epic SF/fantasy hybrid, which was the first in the Jaran series.¬† Not just Tess & Ilya’s relationship (though that obviously kept me up late reading), but this whole foreign world came to life for me.

Martha Wells‘ THE GATE OF GODS (fantasy): This was the final book in her Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy and proved to be one of those unputdownable books for me. ¬†It was the perfect ending to the series, and like JARAN, I was left wondering how I managed to miss out on these books earlier.

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New-to-Me Authors I’m Glad I Read in 2013

Apart from all of those listed above, here are the other new-to-me authors I enjoyed during the year:

SF/F

  • Ankaret Wells: Self-pubbed author, intriguing world-building but plotlines tend to wander on a bit
  • Helen S. Wright: Another old-school space opera gem – I thought A MATTER OF OATHS was lots of fun
  • Marko Kloos: Originally self-pubbed, his military SF novels will be published by Amazon’s 47North in 2014
  • Emma Bull: Only read a short story of hers, but liked it – her WAR FOR THE OAKS¬†is meant to be a UF classic (and is in my TBR!)
  • Katriena Knights: Her UF NECROMANCING NIM¬†was both fast-paced and sexy, and begs for¬†a sequel

Romance

  • Elle Kennedy:¬†M√©nage stories are somewhat out of my comfort zone, but she sold me with HOTTER THAN EVER
  • Joanna Chambers: Historical M/M romance that felt authentic, which is a bit of a rarity
  • Alexis Hall: His M/M romance debut GLITTERLAND¬†promises much to look forward to
  • KJ Charles: M/M romance in a historical fantasy setting – I’m looking forward to more in her A Charm of Magpies series

New Adult / Young Adult

  • Scarlett Dawn: I suspect her paranormal Forever Evermore series will be my new guilty pleasure in 2014
  • Diane Stanley: YA-veering-on-MG (or vice versa) fantasy, liked her Silver Bowl books, but thought there was potential for so much more
  • Sherry Thomas: Kind of surprised it took me this long to read one of her books – and also that it was a YA fantasy, not historical romance

Mystery

  • Ashley Gardner: Her Regency-set Captain Lacey series kept me pretty much occupied over October, which leads nicely on to…

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Author Most Glommed in 2013

Apart from the authors in my favourites list (I’m sounding like a broken record, sorry), I read my way through the first six of Ashley Gardner‘s historical mystery books – while these didn’t capture my imagination the way that PB Ryan’s series did, they were solid and showed a different side of London to the more usual glittering balls of the ton (and the first three are available in an e-bundle for ¬£0.77 ¬†at the moment – you’re welcome).

I also read five Mary Baloghs (I know, I kept quiet about both of these authors over 2013, didn’t I?), prompted by the 2-in-1 reissues of her backlist. ¬†I’m not yet a Balogh die-hard, but I’m starting to understand why her historical romances are favourites amongst so many readers.

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The Statistics

 


2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
# of books read 150 164 144 141 115
# published during current year 90 (60%) 78 (48%) 73 (51%) 77 (55%) 55 (48%)
# of authors read 100 103 91 88 71
# of new-to-me authors 41 (41%) 31 (30%) 26 (29%) 29 (33%) 22 (30%)
# of library books 14 (9%) 28 (17%) 24 (17%) 20 (14%) n/a
space space space space space space

I’m not surprised my total is down from 2012 – I thought it would be a lot lower, to be honest. ¬†Yay for the number of new-to-me authors I branched out and read this year (and I was obviously rewarded for that, based on my lengthy list above of new-to-me authors I enjoyed) .

I was dreading the library books percentage – I pretty much stopped using my local library during the last quarter of the year. ¬†But I think that was also driven by me reading more digital-only releases and from smaller/indie pubs – I tend to use my library for the higher-profile new releases in hardback (i.e. when I’m not entirely sure I want the book and I know the library will be ordering it), and there was fewer of these in 2013 for me.

Genre-wise, romance and fantasy pretty much made up two-thirds of what I read over 2013 (61 and 44 books respectively) – I suspect there was a fair few books that could fit into either though, bearing in mind they’re two of my favourite genres.

And finally, here’s how the year looked like for me:

2013

And that’s it (I’m glad I only write this once a year)!

I’m still in the process of adding all my 2013 reads onto Goodreads (I’m up to September at the moment), but the full 2013 list will be here once I’m done.