Three ummm… Lists Make a List?

This post is more of a bookmark for myself – but ICYMI, here are three themed recommendation lists, with quite a few additional recs in the comments.

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.

Debra Doyle & James D Macdonald’s THE PRICE OF THE STARS

363059I’ve been skirting the question of blogging and reading slumps recently, but I’m been wondering if I just needed to take a proper break.  And then I stumbled across this book in my TBR pile.

It was an impulse selection – having finished a not-very-exciting YA*, I thought SF would be a nice change of pace, and I recalled Debra Doyle & James D Macdonald‘s THE PRICE OF THE STARS being mentioned in several SF recommendation threads.  And I realised I had bought the ebook** some time back.  So I clicked on it and…

Best decision I’ve made this year.  Seriously.  (Though that may say more about my year so far than this book, admittedly.)

THE PRICE OF THE STARS feels like the first book that I’ve read in ages which had me really excited about reading the next book – maybe more so because I actually thought it was a standalone book (much like Helen Wright‘s A MATTER OF OATHS – sequel please?) and then found out not only was this the first book of a trilogy, but there was FOUR more books in the series (plus two short stories)***.  At which point, I undertook a good old-fashioned glom and have been surviving on the bare minimum of sleep required because I needed to finish the story, dammit.

And then I obviously had to get on my blog to tell all of you about it. What blogging slump?

Right, after all that build-up – here’s the (accurate) back cover blurb:

Freebooter at heart, spacer by trade, Beka Rosselin-Metadi doesn’t want to hear about how her father whose rugged generalship held back the Mageworlds — or her highborn mother whose leadership has held the galaxy together since. Beka pilots spacecraft — as far from her famous family as possible. Then Beka’s mother is assassinated on the Senate floor, and her father offers her the title to Warhammer, prize ship from his own freebooting youth — if she agrees to deliver the assassins to him “off the books”.

Looking for assassins has a tendency to make assassins look for you. In doing so, Beka’s arranged her own very public death and adopted a new identity; now all she has to do is leave a trail of kidnappings and corpses across five star systems, and blow the roof off the strongest private fortress in the galaxy.

Firstly, it’s space opera.  It’s a sub-genre I love (and I kind of feel that it’s seen as the non-trendy thing nowadays with very few new releases****) so I’m thrilled that I discovered this series.  There’s full-on adventure and non-stop action as Beka, her siblings, and their companions race around the galaxy and try to stay alive while figuring out who the bad guys are and getting their revenge.  There’s a bit of romance, lots of derring-do, and even some old-fashioned sword and staff fights amidst the starship battles.  And it’s not pure SF – there’s equal action there on the magic front with some rather sneaky Adepts.

It’s very much a ensemble cast-type of story – there are multiple POVs and subplots, but I was never lost.  I didn’t really have a particular favourite amongst the many characters, so I was perfectly happy just going with the flow and jumping between the different storylines. Maybe that was a weakness, in the sense that no one character completely won my heart, but this style worked for me.

It’s not perfect writing, but the story’s immensely fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It is satisfying story-telling, and if certain things stand out as being too obvious, there are also some out-of-nowhere twists that left me blinking – and needing to know more.  Having finished the final book of the trilogy, I love the way the authors set up certain things in the first book to come to fruition in the third.  THE PRICE OF THE STARS works rather well as a standalone, but there is some good payoff if you stick with the series.

So there you have it – one of my favourite reads of the year so far.  I’m off to read the rest in the Mageworlds series now.

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*Sarah Dessen’s new release THE MOON AND MORE – okay but a bit on the bland side

**This is why I love ebooks.  This was published in 1992 – without ebooks, what are the chances I would actually have this to hand?

***And the authors have written more series!

****Unless I’m missing out, and in which case, recs please?