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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.

REVIEW:  A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

REVIEW: A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

A Righteous Kill (The Shakespearean Suspense #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

Dear Ms. Byrne:

Mandi from SmexyBooks recommended this book to me an even though it was a fairly expensive self published book at nearly $6.00, I’m happy to spend money on a book I’ll enjoy. The book was as Mandi said. It featured a gruff, reluctant hero, a self possessed heroine, and a suspenseful plot.

Hero Viola Katrova-Conner is found with her hands and side pierced like Christ, the victim of a John the Baptist serial killer. Why Viola survives where the other victims live isn’t quite clear and you have to buy into the insta-lust between FBI agent Luca Ramirez who arrives on the scene as the agent in charge. There kneeling next to the victimized boy of Hero Viola, the two exchange meaningful glances. (Hero later says that he reminded her of her brothers).

The story essentially follows a standard suspense plot line. Hero is a damsel in distress and Luca is assigned to be her pretend boyfriend/bodyguard in hopes that the serial killer comes after her again. Luca begins to examine Hero’s male acquaintances in hopes to find out who it is. The FBI has few leads.

I confess that in retrospect, the lack of urgency in the pursuit of John the Baptist was puzzling. In order to make the romance more believable, the suspense plot takes serious hits. For instance, after the initial scene, we fast forward seven weeks later so that Hero is fully healed from her injuries.  She has very little emotional repercussions from her kidnapping, torture, and near death experience.

This is not to say I didn’t like Hero. I did. She’s a sexually confident woman while also being creative and pragmatic.  She pursued Luca because he was too reluctant to get involved with her even though sexual tension thrums between them. Luca doesn’t believe he’s good for Hero or any other woman because he has so much rage inside of him.

There’s a good blend of romance and suspense so long as you forget about the seven weeks during which the FBI does almost nothing in terms of investigating Hero’s background, her lifestyle, and every person in her life particularly since her profile was different than all the other “working girls” that had been targeted by the killer in the past.

The series is called “Shakesperean Suspense” and is likely based on all the Katrova-Conner family. The Katrova-Conner both exemplifies the best and worst of the book. When it was convenient to bring the whole family together, a big fun boisterous family, they were trotted out, particularly when they were needed to set up a future story.  But one of the family members was also an FBI agent. Didn’t it make sense for that person to be involved in her safety? Her four older brothers seemed almost nonchalant about her safety as did her parents.

Speaking of her parents, there is a prologue involving how the parents first meet that is self indulgent and unnecessary. There was no explanation later and no connection to the overall story.  The Katrova-Conner family sounds interesting and I’m definitely on board for more books, but I’d hope for less convenient appearances of the family to increase the series hook.

Finally, there were a couple of reviews that mention fat shaming. The story opens with Luca thinking fairly negative thoughts about a heavy set detective. I don’t see that continues throughout the book. In sum, there was a strong connection between the two main characters. I loved the family scenes and the whodunit wasn’t bad.  B-

Best regards,


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