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: Ménage 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.

My Auto-buy Authors: The 2013 Fantasy Edition

Auto-buy Authors definition: You don’t have to know anything about their latest book, you just buy.  As soon as the release hits the shelves.

It’s been a while since I last wrote about my auto-buy authors (in the romance genre), but here’s the fantasy edition.  Even before I was a romance reader (and by that, I really mean before I was allowed into the Romance aisles in the bookstores), you would find me camped out in the SF/F section (and yes, it’s arguable whether some of the books in this section were more age-appropriate than those in the Romance section).  I pondered whether to tackle the two genres together, but decided to give each of them their own page time.

My auto-buy authors in the fantasy genre:

Urban fantasy

This post would have been very different had it been written when I first started my blog back in 2006.  Back then, it would have been all about Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong…  Now the latter two are wrapping up the main series that made them bestselling authors (and while I’m sad to say goodbye to their characters, it’s the right time IMO).  As for LKH – well, I’m not quite sure where she’s going with the Anita Blake series, but it’s probably crossed over into erotica.

But then again, back in those days, vampires/werewolves/[name your paranormal creature of choice] was so rare that having them in a book pretty much guaranteed I would read it.  Talk about change.

Untitled-2Back to my current autobuy authors – I have the obvious ones: Seanan McGuire, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher.  Or should I say Toby Daye, Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels, Harry Dresden. Long-running series are obviously the way to go in urban fantasy – not that I’m complaining, as I’m hooked on the various series arcs and completely invested in the outcome.

13023039Less frequently mentioned online (though I may just be hanging out in the wrong places), but very much auto-buy authors for me: Karen Chance, Kalayna Price, Eileen Wilks.  All three have created worlds that stand out from the many other UF series out there, whether it’s by having a time-travelling seer as a protagonist, a rather sexy Death as a love interest, or a Chinese-American heroine and a werewolf figuring out how their lives fit together.

I don’t think I read a lot of YA UF, with the exception of Sarah Rees Brennan – I find her writing hilarious (in a good way!) plus I really loved her Demon’s Lexicon trilogy.

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Traditional fantasy

I kind of steer away from the bigger names in this genre – I’ve not read any of George RR Martin’s books and while I like Brandon Sanderson’s works well enough, I’m no die-hard fan (and I haven’t read Wheel of Time either).  Raymond Feist and Terry Brooks were on my bookshelves when I was growing up, but I’ve a feeling I DNF’d their latest releases that I borrowed from the library.

My fantasy credentials (or lack of) established – here are my auto-buy authors:

12594400Andrea K Höst*: The newest addition to my list of autobuy authors, but two of her books made my top favourites of 2012 (plus I cheated and counted omnibuses as one book).  I really enjoy her refreshing take on fantasy tropes.

Juliet Marillier*: Lyrical, captivating, and romantic historical fantasy.  I adore her Sevenwaters books.

Jacqueline Carey: Her Kushiel series leans towards dark fantasy and captured my imagination.  She’s just ventured into urban fantasy (which I’m also liking).

Kristin Cashore*: I wasn’t convinced by GRACELING (*ducks*), but FIRE and BITTERBLUE made her very much an auto-buy author.

Megan Whalen Turner*: Smart, clever, twisty writing.

13515074Tanya Huff: I fell in love with her latest release THE SILVERED, though I also like her urban fantasy books (most recently, the Gale Family books, though her Blood books are probably better known).  And her high fantasy books were mainstays on my bookshelves when I was a teenager.

Sharon Shinn*: I’ve loved pretty much all of her fantasy books – I first started with her Samaria books (reading them well out of order and ruining the twist, but never mind), then devoured her standalones, and finally fell in love with her Twelve Houses books. Like some of the other authors, she’s started writing in the urban fantasy genre – it’s a trend.

9708616Sherwood Smith*: Like many other readers out there, her YA fantasy CROWN DUEL was my introduction to Sherwood Smith’s writing, but I quickly collected her backlist.

Tamora Pierce*: Unlike the other YA authors in this list, I actually did read Tamora Pierce when I was a teen.  Her Alanna books are on my favourite-series-of-all-time list, and her other books aren’t far behind.  I love how her females totally hold their own – Alanna was doing the kick-ass heroine thing before UF made an appearance on the block.

I debated whether to include Mercedes Lackey in the list above, and reluctantly decided not to.  I loved all her Valdemar books when I was a teenager, but I’m a lot more selective about which of her recent releases I buy nowadays.  And when I do buy, it’s more out of nostalgia than anything else.

Also, the asterisks indicate if the author writes YA as well (or exclusively).  I actually had the YA authors in a separate list, but then realised there was so much overlap that it didn’t make any sense.

 

Others

13151638I know.  The categories I’m using is somewhat arbitrary (okay, very), but hey, my blog.  So other authors that don’t fit into my urban/traditional categorisation are Diana Gabaldon (I don’t know – time-travel?  Historical?) – her last Jamie/Claire book was so heavy that I had to read it with the book propped up on pillows, but she is very definitely an auto-buy for me.

And  Wen Spencer – I came across her when someone recommended her Ukiah Oregon books (which are urban fantasy and which I glommed), but her more recent Tinker books are this hybrid of elves-technology-magic which somehow totally works.

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I think that’s it for me – tell me your auto-buy authors writing fantasy today?

My Auto-buy Authors: The 2012 Romance Edition

Auto-buy Authors definition: You don’t have to know anything about their latest book, you just buy.  As soon as the release hits the shelves.

My auto-buy authors have changed a lot over the years, partly as my genre preferences have changed, but also because the internet has opened my eyes to numerous new-to-me authors out there.  You can probably guess at my list from either my monthly new releases posts (they’re always on there!) or my sidebar with authors I’ve blogged about, but I thought it would be interesting to pull both past and present together in a single post.  And then I decided to break it down by genre, else it would be a bit of an epic post.

So first up, romance.

Historical romance

There was a time when historicals made up the majority of my reading, now it is very rare that I run out to buy one on the day of release.  So the authors I still buy: Eloisa James (true fangirl here), Jo Beverley (primarily for her Georgian settings), Julia Quinn, possibly Lisa Kleypas (if she ever returns to historicals).

Old favourites who I’ve stopped buying: Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood , Mary Jo Putney, Stephanie Laurens. Their recent releases (recent being relative here) feel as though they’ve lost the magic that their early books had.

Authors who have sadly passed away: Georgette Heyer – I’ve all her books, both romances and mysteries; Elizabeth Mansfield – I’ve a lot of her books and her backlist is being released in e-format (yay!); Eva Ibbotson, though I don’t think of her as “traditional” historical romance

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Contemporary romance

It’s not a genre that I read a lot, but if you include category romances in this subgenre, Kelly Hunter was my 2011 discovery.  And I used to read Lynne Graham as my guilty pleasure, but either my tastes have changed or her writing has.   Oh, Suzanne Brockmann – though does it count as an auto-buy if you only like certain series?  Her new paranormal/suspense series is not working for me.

I used to love Jayne Ann Krentz and Linda Howard.  Past tense being the operative word – I liked JAK’s straight contemps, but her recent releases with paranormal themes just leave me cold.  And it’s been years since I’ve loved a new Howard.  Who else?  I follow Erin McCarthy’s stockcar racing series, but don’t read all her books, so I wouldn’t really count her as an autobuy author.

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M/M romance

Josh Lanyon.  I’ve only started reading m/m romance in the past few years, but he is one of my all-time favourite authors regardless of genre.  Other auto-buy authors?  KA Mitchell. Harper Fox. Jordan Castillo Price.

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Paranormal romance

Ummm… it’s a lot more series-specific here.  Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling books. Meljean Brook‘s Iron Seas series – I abandoned her Guardians series a couple of books in (okay, one and a half books in) and have yet to go back.  Though seeing I’ve really liked her steampunk romance book, I should give it another go.  Ilona Andrews for their Edge series (I classify the Kate Daniels books as UF).

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Fantasy romance

Drawing a blank here.  I think I lean more towards romantic fantasy, which I’ll save for the fantasy post (which I suspect will be longer).  There is Elizabeth Vaughan, but I wouldn’t call her an auto-buy author.

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YA romance

I’ve loved both of Stephanie Perkins‘ books, so I’m guessing she probably counts as an auto-buy now.  I enjoy Sarah Dessen’s books though they do come across as a bit same-y after a while, and the one Jennifer Echols book I’ve read, but I don’t think that qualifies them as auto-buys for me.  This is probably the subgenre I read least.

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I think that’s it for romance – how do your auto-buys compare to mine?