Favorite Books & Reading Summary–2013

Reading Summary

I read 88 books or novellas in 2013–way down from my 2012 total (118 books). I think the main reason for this is that I started my blog which took quite a bit of my reading time. I would like to’ve read at least 100 books which I’ve done for the last several years, but I’m enjoying blogging so I’m going to accept my reading speed plus I read some great books! When I’m reading a book I love I sometimes so down my reading so I can enjoy the happiness and joy of a great book!

Over half the books I read (60 books or 68%) were fantasy or science fiction. This includes paranormal and fantasy romance as well as young adult fantasies and science fiction. Most of the books I read were fantasies–either urban fantasies or just fantasies.

In 2012, I read many more historical romances than fantasies. This year I read 29 romances–including contemporary romance, historical romance and paranormal and fantasy romance. Most of the novellas I read were romances.

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Without further ado…in the order I read the books…

My favorites of 2013:

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Cinder started me reading more young adult books the latter part of the year)

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

Stray & Lab Rat One by Andrea K. Höst (I’m counting this as one book even though it’s a trilogy, because the books are really just one continuous wonderful book!)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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Honorable Mention

Really any of these books could be in my top ten. I loved them, too!

A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

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I could continue with a number of other books…I had a great reading year! The above books aren’t always my highest rated books, but these are books which stayed with me through the year. Sometimes after I read a book I can’t even remember exactly what it was about by the next week! The above books are books are really remember and enjoy remembering…lol…not books I hated so much I remember them.

All my favorites are fantasy/science fiction. I’m loving fantasy and don’t see that changing anytime soon!

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What about you? What have you been reading? Have you done a “Best of…” post?

New Author Challenge 2013 Wrap-Up

Happy New Year to Everyone!

I hope you all had a fun and safe New Year’s Eve and will have a wonderful year.

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New Author Challenge
Disclaimer: Artwork used (with permission) for the button is Anglerfish by Vlad Gerasimov.

I participated in the 2013 New Authors Challenge which is hosted by the Literary Escapism blog. I’ve really enjoyed the new authors I’m reading this year!

The Literary Escapism Blog is hosting another New Author Challenge for 2014. Check it out and join the challenge!

I challenged myself to read 25 new-to-me authors in 2013. I won my challenge and actually read and reviewed 32 new authors in 2013!

On December 17 I even wrote a post (for Top Ten Tuesday) of my favorite new authors of the year.

Since I wrote that on Dec 17 I have another favorite new author: Deborah Harkness (A Discovery of Witches)!

This was the only Challenge I participated in this year, but since this was a favorite part of my year this year I’ve decided to participate in several more challenges in 2014! I will write a post about them in the next week.

Sunday Post–December 29

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kim at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I like this meme because it gives me an opportunity to take a look back at last week and forward to next week in both my personal life and my blog and book life! I also like to see what other people are doing and what books everyone is reading. This is a great meme to participate in every week and I thank Kim for hosting it!

Last Week

Around the House

This week was family time. We played games (dominoes and backgammon), watched a few movies (Elf, Despicable Me), walked around the neighborhood especially at night (looking at Christmas lights), talked, cooked, baked, ate a lot…it was all pretty relaxed and fun.

Our son was only here Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. His allergies and our cats don’t get along. Our two daughters left yesterday (Saturday) and that was a sad day for me. I miss them so much, but they are happy in the Midwest and our older daughter just got a full-time job, but will continue with her Master’s program. The job is 90 minutes away from where she’s living now so she’s moving (her Master’s program is available online).

Our neighbors invited us to a get-together at their home on Saturday night and that was lots of fun. We met more people in our neighborhood and enjoyed lots of great food, drink and conversation.

Blog

Sunday Post–December 22

Review: Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

What I’m reading

Lab Rat One by Andrea K. Höst

What I read this week

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

E-books bought

Through the Evil Days by Julie Spencer-Fleming

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King (Christmas gift)

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie King (Christmas gift)

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak

Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir

Lab Rat One by Andrea K. Höst

Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford

Next Week

Around the house

My husband goes back to work for two days and then takes the rest of the week off. Our wedding anniversary is on January 2 so we plan to spend some time in Baltimore, Annapolis and the Eastern Shore. I hope we can stay in a bed and breakfast in Annapolis!

Posts on the blog

I’m preparing end-of-year and beginning-of-year posts and preparing to move my blog to my self-hosted site. I’ve still got a few things to do so we’ll  see how it all goes.

  • New Author Challenge 2013 Wrap-up
  • Top Ten Tuesday
  • Review: Bloodfever & Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Review:
  • Sunday Post

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What are your end of the year plans? New year plans?

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness is an author I haven’t read before and so it’s part of my New Authors Challenge which is hosted by the Literary Escapism blog. Check out their blog and also the challenge. I’m really enjoying all the new authors I’m reading this year!

I think this is my last new author review of 2013! I will write a post wrapping it all up.

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a-discovery-of-witchesA Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy
Published by Viking Penguin, 2011
E-book, purchased
579 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

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“The question of why you’re here–how we’re all here–really does consume you,” I said slowly, “I could see it on every page of Darwin’s book.”

Matthew studied his wine. “It’s the only question worth asking.”

What I like about this book:

  • Diana’s study of the alchemists…the way history–the past and present and maybe the future–is interwoven into the story.
  • Diana’s love of history.
  • The Oxford setting with the Bodleian library, the scholars, Diana rowing her scull all create a wonderful setting
  • The way so many lives and events are interwoven.
  • The relationships people have with Diana–Sarah and Em, Matthew, Ysabeau and Marthe, Marcus, Diana’s parents and so many others. They all revolve around Diana even while they have their own lives.
  • The richness of this story–history, languages, settings, characters, emotions–are all wonderful.

What I don’t like:

  • There are still so many mysteries…which is great, but I’m impatient!

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My thoughts:

I love this book! I’ve heard about it since it came out over two years ago, but heard more about it this year after I started my blog and began regularly reading other blogs. I finally bought the book and read it and am so glad I did! I’m also glad I don’t have too long to wait before the third book in the trilogy is published (July 2014)!

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Have you read A Discovery of Witches? How did you like it?

Review: Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

poltergeistPoltergeist
by Kat Richardson
Series: Greywalker, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published by Roc Trade, 2007
E-book, Purchased
338 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died – for two minutes. Now she’s a Greywalker – walking the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases.

In the days leading up to Halloween, Harper’s been hired by a university research group that is attempting to create an artificial poltergeist. The head researcher suspects someone is faking the phenomena, but Harper’s investigation reveals something else entirely – they’ve succeeded. And when one of the group’s members is killed in a brutal and inexplicable fashion, Harper must determine whether the killer is the ghost itself, or someone all too human.

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Voluntarily and adamantly childless, I’d always assumed that most parents were blissfully unaware of the horrors their little darlings could be. I would have to apologize to a few parents, though not my own–we’d burdened each other with enough mutual horror to call the deal even…

and

“Thirteen paralytic virgins and a partridge in a rutting pear tree! Who drank all the coffee already!”

What worked for me:

  • I enjoyed the mystery. I like that Harper is a private detective and was before she became a Greywalker.
  • The humor and irreverence.
  • The setting–Seattle. I love Seattle and this book does a good job of recreating it for me. (Note: I don’t live in Seattle so I’m not as knowledgeable as a native…I just visit once or twice a year!)
  • The first book was more about Harper trying to figure out what had happened to her and who she was. This book focuses more on the mystery, though Harper still doesn’t understand exactly what and who she is.
  • Harper is standing apart from most of the other otherworldly characters.

What didn’t work:

  • Professor Tuckman is such an unlikeable character and the people he has chosen to study and to try to create a poltergeist are mostly unlikeable, too. I don’t really care what happens to most of them.
  • The main characters are still somewhat underdeveloped. I still don’t have a feel for exactly who the Danzigers are (they don’t seem to know as much as they think they do) or even exactly who Harper is. This may be deliberate since Harper is still trying to figure that out herself and she’s the narrator.

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My thoughts:

I like this series a lot and am looking forward to reading more books in the series. Kat Richardson has created a unique character and unique world. There are scary characters and this isn’t a safe world Harper finds herself in. I like that…there’s a certain amount of uncertainty.

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Are you reading this series? How do you like it?

Sunday Post–December 22

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kim at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I like this meme because it gives me an opportunity to take a look back at last week and forward to next week in both my personal life and my blog and book life! I also like to see what other people are doing and what books everyone is reading. This is a great meme to participate in every week and I thank Kim for hosting it!

Last Week

Around the House

My husband came home Friday evening. So glad to see him! Our two daughters arrived from the Midwest ahead of the snowstorm in the Midwest Saturday evening. The weather here feels more like early fall than winter. It was close to 70 degrees on Saturday and supposed to be warmer on Sunday. We may have thunderstorms on Sunday. Strange weather.

Blog

I reviewed more books than usual for me. I’m trying to get my backlog of books reviewed before the beginning of the new year.

Sunday Post–December 15

Review: Hunting by Andrea K. Höst

Favorite New-to-Me Authors

Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Reviews: Christmas novellas

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

What I’m reading

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

What I read this week

Stray by Andrea K. Höst

E-books bought

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Christmas Belles by Susan Carroll

A Perfect Holiday Fling by Farrah Rochon

Let it Snow by Eric Ridley

Next Week

Around the house

Christmas arrives! My husband has the week off. We’re planning Christmas Eve dinner (pork loin with mustard-maple glaze) and Christmas dinner (roast turkey). Our daughters are here all week and our son arrives Tuesday through Thursday. We are going to see the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on Thursday in Washington, DC. We try to go to a play during the Christmas holidays each year. It’s so nice to have our family here.

Posts on the blog

I’m not sure how much I will blog this week.

  • Top Ten Tuesday
  • Review:
  • Review:
  • Sunday Post

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What did you do last week? What are your plans for next week and the end of the year?

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is an author I haven’t read before and so it’s part of my New Authors Challenge which is hosted by the Literary Escapism blog. Check out their blog and also the challenge. I’m really enjoying all the new authors I’m reading this year!

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throne-of-glassThrone of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s, 2012
E-book, Purchased
432 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

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In the garden, the Captain of the Guard stared up at the young woman’s balcony, watching as she waltzed alone, lost in her dreams. But he knew her thoughts weren’t of him.

She stopped and stared upward. Even from a distance, he could see the blush upon her cheeks. She seemed young—no, new. It made his chest ache.

Still, he watched, watched until she sighed and went inside. She never bothered to look below.

and

“I can survive well enough on my own–if given proper reading material.”

What worked for me:

  • The book is very intense. Calaena is an assassin…only 18 years old. She’s been in the salt mines for the past year where most people don’t live more than a few months.
  • Lots goes on beneath the surface of the book and many of the characters’ lives.
  • I didn’t think I would like to read a book about an assassin. I didn’t want to read a violent book. I was won over by the characters.
    • Calaena Sardothien–trained as an assassin from the time she was 8 years old. Dark and angry sometimes, but also loves to read and play the piano. A complex character.
    • Chaol Westfall–captain of the guard, friend of Prince Dorian and Calaena’s trainer. He can’t believed she’s not hardened by the people she’s killed. They gradually become friends.
    • Prince Dorian–Calaena’s sponsor in the champion contest. The outward face he shows in court as a flirt is not the true one. He doesn’t like his father, loves to read, wants to escape from court.
    • Princess Nehemia Ytger–sent to court by her father.
    • King of Adarlan–sentenced Calaena to the salt mines of Endovier. Calaena hates him, but she’s willing to be his assassin in exchange for her freedom.

What didn’t work:

  • There’s a love triangle which I didn’t care for. I don’t like my fantasies with very much romance and I don’t like love triangles in general.
  • I like that Calaena is a nuanced character, but she’s only 18 years old. It’s hard to see how she isn’t completely hardened by all the killing she’s done. She reminds me of the children soldiers in Africa and other parts of the world. They aren’t nearly as emotionally healthy as Calaena is. And I wonder how that can be.

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My thoughts:

Even with the love triangle I like the book and am glad to find another new author. I know I will read the next book, but haven’t felt the urge to. I think it’s the same reason I hesitated to read this book…I’m not in the mood for a dark book. Even though this promised to be a dark book it really wasn’t that dark so perhaps the next one won’t be either. I will read it one of these days and discover one way or the other!

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Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Reviews: Christmas novellas

A set of three short reviews of three Christmas novellas.

a-kiss-for-midwinterA Kiss for Midwinter
by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister, #1.5
Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian England)
Published by Courtney Milan, 2012
E-book, Purchased
121 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss…

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the-night-before-christmasThe Night Before Christmas
by Kelly Hunter
Series: The West Family prequel novella
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Published by Harlequin Kiss, 2013
E-book, Purchased
51 pages
Grade: C-
Synopsis: Hardworking and independent Jess Turner has come home from the bustle of Sydney to enjoy a quiet Christmas. But after running into an old school friend, she finds herself talked into attending a lavish Christmas Eve party—and running straight into the only man to ever break her heart.

Rebel with a heart Boyd Webber thrives on the adrenaline rush of riding motorbikes for a living, but giving into love has never been a risk worth taking. Until he sees Jess again…

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mistletoe-kisses“A Gift of Light
by Jo Beverley
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency England)
One of three short stories in Mistletoe Kisses and Yuletide Joy, 2013 (originally published 1996 in The Christmas Cat)
E-book, Purchased
about 60 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Miss Kitty Mayhew is spending the first Christmas since her parents’ deaths quietly, but she ventures out to find the owner of a raucous tom that is keeping her awake with his caterwauling serenades to her own cat. When she encounters a half-dressed manservant she’s shaken, especially as he’s impudent and far too handsome for his own good. When she learns he’s the Earl of Felstowe hiding from Christmas revelries she knows she’s bitten off more than she can chew. But the earl is now in determined pursuit of her.

What worked for me:

  • I loved A Kiss for Midwinter. The story was emotional and the two main characters–Lydia and Jonas–were very real to me. There was humor, angst and caring in this story. I liked that the story is mainly told from Jonas’ point of view.
  • The Night Before Christmas was okay, but there really wasn’t enough of it.
  • “A Gift of Light” was a cute story. I especially enjoyed the latter part of the story and the two cats were a lot of fun. The way they matched their owners was a nice touch.

What didn’t work:

  • The Night Before Christmas suffers because it was very short. The two main characters aren’t fully fleshed out. The prequel felt like it was merely a device to briefly introduce the West family.
  • I didn’t enjoy A Gift of Light very much to begin with. Then there’s a twist in the second half of the story and I liked the rest it.

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  • Courtney Milan’s novella is a winner for me. It’s a story which could be read anytime. There isn’t too much about Christmas…though the story did talk a bit negatively about the new Christmas trees introduced by Prince Albert from Germany (as opposed to the yule log and ivy)!
  • The shortness of The Night Before Christmas made this short story unsatisfying for me. Kelly Hunter is one of my favorite Harlequin authors, but this isn’t a favorites for me.
  • “A Gift of Light” was a cute story. Jo Beverley is one of my favorite historical romance authors and though I didn’t enjoy this as much as her full length novels it was still a nice story.

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Have you read any of these stories? How did you like them?

Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

the-burning-skyThe Burning Sky
by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Published by Balzer & Bray, 2013
e-book, purchased
464 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

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You are asking me to give up everything for a cause that isn’t mine. I don’t want to be part of any revolution. I just want to live.

and

Friendship is untenable for people in our position.

What I like about this book:

  • Iolanthe didn’t agree with Prince Titus’ plans immediately.
  • The world building for this fantasy is well done. I like that the fantasy world is different from the “real” world (which is like 19th century England).
  • She isn’t immediately heroic. She doesn’t want to die. She doesn’t understand who she is and has had no training. I thought this was a realistic reaction to her circumstances.
  • This is the second book in a row I’ve read with a girl pretending to be a boy (Hunting by Andrea K. Höst was the first–I didn’t plan it that way…lol). Both books are very good.

What I don’t like:

  • Iolanthe almost spent too much time disliking and distrusting Prince Titus.
  • I thought Iolanthe liked Titus a little too much at first and then distrusted him a little too much.

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My thoughts: 

I’ve read some of Sherry Thomas’ historical romances and liked them, but wasn’t sure I’d like a young adult fantasy. However, I think she did a very good job with the first book of this trilogy. I hope the next two books are as good!

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Favorite New-to-Me Authors

toptentuesday2Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme I participate in when I can. It’s a great meme and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish blog. Every week a new topic is presented. It’s not only fun to think about my own list, but to read what other people come up with!

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Since I participated this year in The New Author Challenge 2013 hosted by the Literary Escapism blog I was able to quickly find my top ten favorite new authors for this year. I added links to each of my book reviews. Most of my favorite new authors wrote fantasy or urban fantasy.

New-to-me authors in no particular order:

Kate Locke–I read God Save the Queen and The Queen is Dead this year. These books were great fun to read…set in a Victorian steampunk England with Queen Victoria as a vampire!

Marko KloosTerms of Enlistment is a military science fiction which is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I was glad to find a new author who was also self-published. He later got a publishing deal which is wonderful for him.

Hailey Edwards–Ms. Edwards wrote one of the most imaginative worlds I read this year. A Hint of Frost shows a world in which people have the characteristics of spiders–poison, spinning webs, different clans with different characteristics. A very interesting concept.

Karen Marie Moning–The Fever series is one of my favorites of the year (at least the three I’ve read so far!) Darkfever is the first in this series which is a fantasy set in present day Ireland, but an Ireland and world increasingly under attack by the Fae. The books are getting darker and grimmer as I read them, but, oh so good!

Jim Bishop–Mr. Bishop writes the urban fantasy Harry Dresden series. I’ve been meaning to read this series for a number of years. I started them this year and am really enjoying reading them. I started by reading the fourth book in the series–Summer Knight–and I’m hooked! I’ve read four books in the series so far.

Jim C. HinesLibriomancer is an excellent book and the beginning of the Magic Ex Libris series by Mr. Hines. It’s an urban fantasy with a great premise–libriomancers can reach into books and pull out weapons and other things from the book.

Marissa Meyer–I read both Cinder and Scarlet by Ms. Meyer this year. Ms. Meyer has written young adult fantasies which are imaginative re-telling of fairy tales.

Andrea K. Höst–Ms. Höst is a new-to-me fantasy author I’m so excited to find. I’ve read two of her books now and can’t wait to read some more! The first book I read by her–Hunting–is one I reviewed yesterday!

Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns has such a great heroine. She gets things done! This is another fantasy series.

Sarah J. Maas–I haven’t published this review yet, but this is another new author whom I’ve enjoyed. She wrote Throne of Glass a fantasy about a female assassin.

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Who are your favorite new-to-you authors?