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Sirius’ Best of 2013

Sirius’ Best of 2013

As you can see, there are a lot of m/m books on my list, and I just included short versions of my amazon reviews for the books which were not reviewed here. I also did not put the list in order of preference – I pretty much enjoyed all these books a lot, except that the first book is pretty much my number one across all the romance I read.

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies 1) by KJ CharlesThe Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies book 1) by K. J. Charles. Magic, mystery and mayhem set in AU Victorian England. A building romance between two heroes begins in this first installment. The writing grabbed me from the first chapter and really never let go.

 

 

spook squadSpook Squad by Jordan Castillo Price. I loved this book, but for those who aren’t familiar with the series, this is Book 7 of the PsyCop series, and if you are in any way interested you should start reading from book one. [Sunita reviewed the first book, Among the Living, here] Vic and Jacob (main characters in this paranormal thriller/romance/adventure) really came a long way in this latest installment. The plot was as twisty as ever. Vic is maturing and growing as a person and as an investigator, and the way he adjusts his mindset as to certain people at the end of the story feels natural and believable. There are several pretty big surprises as the story unfolded, or I should say I was surprised, and I loved how Vic’s reactions to each of those surprises were handled. You can feel the hard-earned trust between Vic and Jacob, and I loved that such trust never wavers in this book. I am not sure if JCP has planned any more books in the series – the ending in this one is absolutely satisfying, but there are possibilities if she wants to continue. Having said that, whether she wants to continue or not, I would have felt very annoyed if at that stage of their relationship, after everything they went through, they would start showing  some typical traits of romance characters (you know, breaking up, quarreling for nothing, etc.). I subscribe to her newsletter and in the latest one she mentioned that eight book is planned and will be the last one.

TD_Disasterology_101Disasterology 101 by Taylor V. Donovan. I was really impressed with one of the main characters in this book. As I said in my review, Cedric is not the first character I have “met” in m/m romances who has OCD. Cedric however is the first character (not saying that they do not exist just that I have not read about them) who actively tries to take charge and get some semblance of normalcy in his life *before* a potential love interest comes into his life.

 

Bone Rider by J. FallyBone Rider by J. Fally (DA review by Sunita). A friend at Goodreads enthusiastically recommended this book – I would have never picked it up on my own. The authors I never heard of lately tend to be massive duds for me for the most part – but I listened to the recommendation and I am glad I did. Let me tell you – I avoid books with Russian gangsters like plague. I am from that part of the world and I am so very sick and tired that the characters of my descent seem to mostly have only one occupation in the fiction books – gangsters. Anyway, the friend told me that the characters will break through my defenses and sure enough they did. I adored Misha and Andrej and Kolya by the time I was done with the book, but this was no small feat to accomplish. And there was Riley and McLane. Outspoken, hilarious, loyal McLane created an unexpected, but so very fitting, symbiotic relationship with Riley. The story moved fast and was bursting with tension. I loved every second of it. I was a little disappointed in how one of the Army guys came out to me on page, because I felt that he was meant to be a more nuanced character than I thought he was, but that sure did not stop me from deciding that this book was one of my favorite books this year.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie BarrowsThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (DA review by Jennie). I learned about this book when I saw it on Jennie’s reading list. What is it about? The horrors of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, yes (some of it quite graphic, but so very real), but also the triumph of human spirit and some really wonderful people who struggled hard to survive and love each other, and the many books which helped to maintain their spirits. Because of course books could not save them from what was happening, but I am of the firm belief that books can help a lot, especially when they strengthen friendships.

And I really loved how the book mixes painful and light-hearted moments; I thought the story was really successful in that. I also was very impressed that this epistolary novel achieved what very few books are able to do in this format for me. Usually a letter-style story distances the characters and events from me, but in this one they came through as alive and interesting and more importantly memorable.

The Chocolate Touch Laura FlorandThe Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand (DA review by Willaful). Sunita introduced me to these series and I loved all the books, but this one was probably my favorite so far. The first book and this book have some common characters — the female lead in this one is a younger sister of Cade, heroine in The Chocolate Thief, but you can read this book without having read the first two (although why would you, I have no idea). Trust me, I do not read a lot of m/f romance but Florand’s books just swept me away. The men in all her books that I have read are famous French chocolatiers/pastry chefs. I adored that they have well-earned confidence, even arrogance in their abilities, but at the same time they do not behave as a*holes.

Dominic Richard is probably the most vulnerable out of three male leads, but being damaged does not make him any less a strong lead. His hard work on overcoming the obstacles of his childhood, his constant, constant work on improving himself made me respect him so much, and his romance with Jaime was just so very swoonworthy. The sexual tension was great, but what I loved the most was the tenderness and mutual respect these two seemed to have for each other. And I loved seeing the older Coreys again, especially James and his project.

navigating earlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.

I am an adult, but I love me some middle grade and YA books. I especially like those that do not talk down to kids and teens. This one really does not. The blurb summarizes the story well – two boys who feel like outsiders in their boarding school go on a mysterious quest to find Pi, who was lost in the imaginary story one of the boys hears from the numbers he loves (the real story is much better than my summary, I swear).

The find some really lost souls, and to a degree they also find themselves on this trip. The writing is very beautiful; I cannot really know whether middle grade kids will love it, and when I read the book six months ago I was not sure if I want to give it to an 8.5 year old girl, or if she would be a little too young for it. But since she devours books and their complexity level keeps increasing, I think this will be one of my presents to her.

haunted heart josh lanyon

The Haunted Heart: Winter by Josh Lanyon (joint DA review with Sunita). This was my favorite book by Lanyon after his return from sabbatical.

 

 

 

 

cover2Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. This was one of the most unusual gay YA books I have read last year, but one of the most memorable ones as well.

 

 

 

 

Suicide Watch by Kelley YorkSuicide Watch by Kelley York (DA review by John). I have had this book for a while, but I only recently worked up the nerve to read it. I did cry when I read it, but this book is not your usual angsty m/m fare. I really liked York’s writing and I was very surprised at how well she managed to tell a genuinely sweet love story set against such sad subject.

Jia’s Best of 2013

Jia’s Best of 2013

Sadly, the fantasy novel drought continues. I still read fantasy novels, of course, but they’re usually by my tried and true favorites. It’s been a long time since I last got excited about a debut author or a new series. (N.K. Jemisin and Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker books, in case you’re wondering.) I’m not ready to give up on the genre yet but prospects look bleak. Where are the up and coming Jemisins and Elliotts and Careys?

There are books I intended to read but didn’t get around to this year. Maybe next year. After all the talk about Last Hour of Gann around these parts, I never picked it up. Maybe 2014 will begin with an R. Lee Smith glom. Maybe that’ll inject some freshness into my dull SFF reading landscape.

Leaving that familiar complaint aside, here are my favorites from 2013 in order by author’s last name.

Also Known As by Robin BenwayAlso Known As by Robin Benway. A fun novel about a teenager who comes from a family of international spies. Better yet, the heroine Maggie is a safecracker, not something you run across often in this category of novel. While the plot was solid, I loved the friendship Maggie formed with social pariah Roux. I just learned there’s going to be another book coming out next year so I’m looking forward to seeing what shenanigans the two of them get up into.



coldest girlThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. If I could have a do-over, I would have labeled this one was recommended read back when it came out in September. I have no idea why I didn’t; I must have been grumpy that week. It’s a book that I still remember and like even more the further I am away from it. It’s a callback to the vampire novels of my teenage years: The Silver Kiss and Lost Souls, where the vampires were beautiful but deadly and truly monstrous and that the reason they were attractive was because of their alien nature and questionable morality. Before I read this book, I was done with vampires. After I read it, I wanted more vampires but more along the lines of the creatures in Coldest Girl in Coldtown.



sorrows-knot-bowSorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow. This YA novel caught me by surprise with its worldbuilding based on Native American culture and drew me in with its depiction of a world inhabited by ghosts and deadly magic. The matriarchal society was a plus and the story was packaged in prose both haunting and lovely. This book was my introduction to Erin Bow and it certainly put her on my to-watch list.



Cold Steel by Kate ElliottCold Steel by Kate Elliott. After a middle book that disappointed me, the Spiritwalker trilogy concludes in a grand and ultimately satisfying fashion. I can never get enough about girls and women adventuring in fantasylands (who are friends with each other and not the lone girl in a group of men!) So more books like this, please.



Dare You To Katie McGarryDare You To by Katie McGarry. Beth’s story edges out Isaiah’s as my favorite of McGarry’s two books released this year. What I can say? I love the difficult heroines.



Rose-Under-FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Those going into this book expecting another Code Name Verity will surely be disappointed because this isn’t that. It’s very hard to top the power of that novel. But Rose under Fire has power in its own way. It is a holocaust novel but instead it tells the story of the other people affected by the internment camps, those who weren’t Jewish. It’s a story of grief and recovery and forging friendships in the most unlikely of places.



Mind Games by Kiersten WhiteMind Games by Kiersten White. A tale of two sisters as told through the lens of a fast-paced thriller. Filled with corporate espionage and assassination, the novel is by turns unexpectedly brutal and heartbreaking. It is ultimately the story of two sisters who’d do anything for each other and the tragedy this unleashes upon their lives. Very excited for the sequel coming out in early 2014.