This is a little late this week due to the holidays and all the end of the year posts I wrote instead. I got a lot of books off my wishlist this this year and there’s also one review copy. After this, hopefully I can get back to writing reviews since I need to review a lot of books – Cold Fire by Kate Elliott, The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima, Heroes Adfrift by Moira J. Moore, The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams, and Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett. (Eek! I was going to start with Cold Fire but I might start elsewhere to try to catch up faster since that’s going to be one of those books that’s difficult to write about without just going “So Goooood!” over and over again.)

I was surprised to notice quite a few of these are stand alone books. As usual, I’ve included some excerpts and I did actually come across one of these books for free on the author’s site!

Waking Beauty by Paul WitcoverWaking Beauty by Paul Witcover

This is the second time my husband has tried to get this book for me. It’s out of print and can be very expensive, but he finally found me a copy that wasn’t at an unreasonable price. It’s even in hardcover! It sounds very intriguing and I’m really curious about it – dark fantasy that’s supposed to be something different than the usual. There is an excerpt available online.

The road to revenge is a long one. For the Galingales, it reaches far into the past, to the bitter day the Intricatas robbed them of their place at the Court of the Serpent Crown. And far into the future, when they will at last reenter the crystal city, Quoz, in triumph. The journey itself has its pleasures: Cyrus Galingale is about to wed a rare beauty, Rose, who will conceive a son whose destiny will span all the Stations of the Wheel from glittering Quoz to dismal Arpagee. And the journey has its danger: for Cy, like all men, is tempted by the forbidden scents of the Maw, luring him nightly from the Hierarchate to the dark forest of Herwood. Fortunately the wedding that will avenge his family will also keep him safely bound, and therefore free. But unknown to Cy, Quoz is not to be his only destiny, nor Rose his only love. For he was once secretly betrothed to another, a girl thought lost to the indescribable ecstasies of the Maw, a green-eyed beauty called Rumer…

The Highest Frontier by Joan SlonczewskiThe Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

I saw this science fiction novel in Tor’s fall catalog last year at BEA and have wanted to read it ever since. The reviews for it were pretty good and just made me more interested in reading it. Maybe it will be the book to get me out of my SF reading funk!

One of the most respected writers of hard SF, it has been more than ten years since Joan Slonczewski’s last novel. Now she returns with a spectacular tour de force of the college of the future, in orbit. Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politically influential family (a distant relation descended from the famous Kennedy clan), whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.

Frontera is an exciting school built with media money, and a bit from tribal casinos too, dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. The Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she’s in school she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by. The world that Jenny is living in is one of the most fascinating and creative in contemporary SF, and the problems Jenny faces will involve every reader, young and old.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy BarrettDark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

I’ve actually already read this one, which was my first book read in 2012! I will be reviewing it in more detail later, but I thought it was rather good. It’s a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur the way it could have been were it a (nearly) plausible tale that grew in the telling. It alternates between the perspective of Ariadne and Theseus. Despite the hints in the blurb, it doesn’t really become a tale of romance, which I thought was a refreshing change of pace. An excerpt is available online.

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.

So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.

Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother . . .

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth HandWaking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand

This is another author I’ve wanted to read for a while, and I thought this particular book by her sounded very interesting to me. My husband also found me this one in hardcover and signed as well. It’s another out of print book I’ve had on my wishlist for awhile!

It begins in a strange place in the heart of Washington, D.C. – the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine, with its brooding shrines, its gleaming towers, and its imposing halls guarded by androgynous stone angels. Until Katherine Sweeney makes the wrong discovery. One evening, opening a door in one of the Divine’s ancient towers, Sweeney learns what she was never supposed to know – that the university is controlled by a clandestine order, the Benandanti, which secretly manipulates every government, every church, every institution in the world, and has done so since long before the Fall of Rome.

The Chains That You Refuse by Elizabeth BearThe Chains That You Refuse by Elizabeth Bear

I’m not normally a big fan of short stories, but Elizabeth Bear is one of those authors whose books I just want to read. I don’t care what it is – if her name is on the cover, I want to read it! Her writing is beautiful and I’m curious to read some of her shorter fiction. I have a feeling I’ll find her short fiction more to my liking than most just because I do love her prose style so much.

A new collection by one of the most popular and prolific authors of the last few years covers a wide range of material, from time travel to cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy. Twenty stories and two poems, originally published in high profile places like SciFi.com and Asimov’s.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

It’s another book I’ve wanted to read the more I’ve seen it reviewed. It’s the start to a trilogy and the next two books will be coming out in fall 2012 and fall 2013. And I also just saw that Megan Whalen Turner and Cinda Williams Chima both are quoted on the authors website saying good things about this book. Oh, and one of the other authors compared it to both Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner! Now I’m even more eager to read it!

An excerpt is available.

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I kept hearing this was THE book to get at BEA, but I missed it because I went to see some authors talk instead. Since then, I’ve just been hearing more and more good things about this book.

An excerpt is available.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Element of Fire by Martha WellsThe Element of Fire by Martha Wells

The great thing about discovering The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells is that she has a lot of older books that I can now go back and read! I’ve heard this one is pretty good so I’m excited to read both this and the copy of Wheel of the Infinite I got recently. It’s a stand alone book although it is set in the Ile-Rien world like The Death of the Necromancer and The Fall of Ile-Rien series.

Martha Wells has excerpts from all her books on her site, but I just found this entire book is actually available to read for free on her website!

The kingdom of Ile-Rein lies in peril, menaced by sorcerous threats and devious court intrigues. As the weak King Roland, flattered and misled by treacherous companions, rules the country, only his ruthless mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna, guards the safety of the realm. But now rumors arise that Urbain Grandier, the dark master of scientific sorcery, has arrived to plot against the throne. And Kade, bastard sister of King Roland, appears unexpectedly at court. The illegitimate daughter of the old king and the Queen of Air and Darkness herself, Kade’s true desires are cloaked in mystery. Is she in league with the wizard Grandier? Or is she laying claim to the throne?

It falls to Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen’s Guard and Ravenna’s former lover, to sort out who is friend, who is foe in a deadly game to keep the Dowager Queen and the kingdom she loves from harm. But is one man’s steel enough to counter all the magic of fayre?

Dreams of the Compass Rose by Vera NazarianDreams of the Compass Rose by Vera Nazarian

This is another book I’ve wanted to read for a while after enjoying Lords of Rainbow by the same author. It sounds like my type of book to me.

The Compass Rose universe-an ancient milieu where places have no names, cities spring forth like bouquets in the desert, gods and dreams walk the scorching sands in the South, ice floats like mirror shards upon the Northern sea, islands that do not exist are found in the East, death chases a thief on the rooftops of a Western city, immortal love spans time, and directions are intertwined into one road we all travel….

You come to this place when you wonder, and sometimes, only when you dream.

What is the nature of evil?

When a young warrior of a dark race finds himself bound in servitude to a beautiful cruel princess, his loyalty becomes entwined with something more horrifying and mysterious than endless night falling over the ancient desert.

When a courageous young servant reveals her hidden wisdom to the madman conqueror of the world, her fate is joined to a nightmare suspended beyond death and outside the universe.

Two souls from different times-their destinies connected through hundreds of other lives and generations, through soft whispers of the wind, through ancient truths that lie buried in an island between worlds.

Both souls enslaved through dream and desire in an endless conflict between truth and illusion.

They can only be set free by the wonder of the Compass Rose.

Jaran by Kate ElliottJaran by Kate Elliott

Discovering Kate Elliott’s new series this year has the same bonus as the discovery of Martha Wells’ new book – she also has a rather large backlist of books! I wasn’t sure where to start but I remember hearing Jaran was good so I decided to start there. The way Kate Elliott describes them on her site makes me think I made the right choice – Genghis Khan meets Jane Austen. I can deal with that.

There are 4 books in this series: Jaran, An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.

The first book in Kate Elliott’s acclaimed Jaran series-the groundbreaking story of a young woman coming of age on an alien planet…and her effect on the human race’s survival.

The Shadow Reader by Sandy WilliamsThe Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

This is a debut and the first book in a new urban fantasy series, McKenzie Lewis.  The next book, The Shattered Dark, will be out next November. I’d been hearing good things about it and was also curious since it was a series about the fae, my favorite group that tends to appear in urban fantasy. Then I saw the cover quote by Seanan McGuire and was completely sold on reading it now. It’s another book I’ve already read and hope to review soon. As a quick preview, it was a very fast-paced entertaining read so I can see why people are talking about it. But, personally, I had a few reservations that kept me from being super excited about it even if I did find it very readable. I’m undecided on whether or not I’ll read the next. It is a fun book that did some things very well (like how it portrayed both sides of the fae war) and since it is a first novel I may give the series another chance.

An excerpt is available on the author’s site.

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

Heroes At Risk by Moira J. MooreHeroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore

This is the fourth book in the Lee and Taro series (or Source and Shield or Heroes or whatever it’s called since I’ve seen it called many names – I’m sticking to what the author’s site says though). The third one is on the “to-review” list since I read it a while ago when I just needed a light, fun book to read. It’s a fun series.

Shield Lee Mallorough and her Source Shintaro Karish have returned to High Scape. It’s bad enough the townspeople are robbing tombs for ashes to use in ritualistic magic. It gets worse when they start to murder the living for their remains.

Heroes Return by Moira J. MooreHeroes Return by Moira J. Moore

This is book 5 in the Lee and Taro series. I was so sad to hear these are going to be discontinued by their publisher recently. I blame the cheesy covers.

Being a hero is a recession-proof job-from the author of Heroes at Risk.

The Emperor has personally selected Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to protect the duchy of Westsea-Taro’s ancestral lands. But Westsea is suffering from deadly earthquakes that resist Lee and Taro’s magic and political unrest that is stoked by their arrival.

Heroes At Odds by Moira J. MooreHeroes at Odds by Moira J. Moore

This is book 6 in the Lee and Taro series so now I have the whole series. Well, the whole series that is out now. Moira J. Moore will be finishing the series and making it available on her website.

Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are steadfast in their commitment to protect Westsea no matter what disaster-natural or man- made-may befall it. But before our heroes can discern why so many people are suddenly interested in gaining control of Westsea, Lee’s family arrives with some startling news. Long before she was trained as a Shield, she was betrothed as part of an alliance with another merchant clan-and her “fiancé” is determined to see Lee fulfill her contract…

Dark Victory by Michele LangDark Victory by Michele Lang

On to the review copy… This is the second book in the Lady Lazarus trilogy, following Lady Lazarus. It will be available on January 17.

I was a little surprised to see this one show up since I did read and review Lady Lazarus, which wasn’t really my type of book. I really liked the idea of a historical fantasy based on Jewish Book of Raziel and the author’s family’s history as Holocaust survivors. As I read more I just grew tired of it, though, and this is one where I thought the premise was much better than the actual book.

Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful Jewish woman has fought off Hitler’s SS werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Führer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II.

As long as Magda can summon spirits, there is still a chance to save people from the dire threat of the Holocaust. Her family’s guardian angel, Raziel, stands beside her in the battle against the human and supernatural forces of evil arrayed against her people and all of Europe.

In Michele Lang’s Dark Victory, as the Nazis prepare to invade Poland, Magda and her beloved Raziel marshal their own army, a supernatural force that will battle Hitler’s minions to the death…or beyond.

Jan
02
2012

With this busy week, I realized I never let you all know that a winner had been selected for the copy of Miserere. By the time I let you know, the winner has given me their address, but I just like to give everyone a heads up so you don’t wonder about what happened with the contest. The winner is:

Kevin from North Carolina, US

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the book!

For everyone else, there is still a chance to enter my 5th Blog Anniversary Giveaway (US only), and I’m also going to be putting up an International 5th Blog Anniversary Giveaway soon!

It’s hard to believe it, but today is the anniversary of starting this blog five years ago way back when it was still on Blogspot. That seems like a long time ago, especially since the first year of blogging wasn’t very consistent so I feel like I’ve only been seriously blogging for about 4 years. Each year of blogging has been better than the last, though, and I’ve had a fantastic time with it despite feeling like I can never quite keep up and do as much reviewing as I’d like to.

I normally ignore these anniversaries, but 5 seemed like a big one and thinking about all I’ve done since then is a bit mind boggling. Since I started my book blog, I’ve:

  • Attended Book Expo America twice. Getting some books and briefly meeting some authors was fun, but the highlight was getting to meet and hang out with other book bloggers.
  • Attended the first two annual Book Blogger Conventions and participated as a panelist on one panel.
  • Interviewed authors whose books I’ve enjoyed, including Elizabeth Bear, Jacqueline Carey, and Freda Warrington.
  • Reviewed over 200 books.
  • Been quoted in the critical acclaim section or even in one case the back cover of a few books, including ones by N. K. Jemisin and Catherynne M. Valente. (Seriously, seeing these quotes made my year and I can’t get over that.)

So it’s been quite an interesting five years and to celebrate I’m giving away a box of 9 books! Since this is a large number of books, I’m afraid I will have to limit this particular giveaway to the US to keep shipping costs down.

Some of these are ARCs and some are finished copies and I’ll make sure to let you know which ones are ARCs instead of the for sale copy in the list below. Some of them have also been read, but only once and are still in decent condition. These fall under the categories of books I liked enough to keep but have extra copies of, books I liked but not enough to keep, books I didn’t like, and unsolicited review copies that just didn’t interest me – but even if they are books that I didn’t like or find interesting, you may. Here’s what I’m giving away:

  • Fox & Phoenix by Beth Bernobich (ARC, read once)
  • The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein (ARC, read once)
  • The Dread Hammer by Trey Shiels (read once)
  • Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (ARC, unread – a keeper but one I have multiple copies of)
  • Embassytown by China Mieville (ARC, read once)
  • Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis (read once)
  • Blood Rights by Kristen Painter (read once)
  • Outpost by Adam Baker (unread)
  • Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (mass market paperback, read once – a keeper but one I have another copy of that matches my copy of book 2)

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below. One entry per person and you must be from the United States to enter (sorry to those outside the US).  The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Sunday, January 15.  The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books to).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the contact form has been removed.

It’s that time of year again – time to reflect on favorites of 2011. I always have a terrible time with this because it’s so hard to pick books with all their different strengths and weaknesses, and this year I had a really terrible time because there were 12 books I wanted to stuff into the top 10. That’s with books divided into a top 10 published in 2011 and a top 5 of older books, so I’d say I had a very decent reading year when there are that many books I enjoyed that much.

These are favorite books, not necessarily the ones I thought were the best books I read (although some of those are somewhere on this list as well).

Favorite Books Published in 2011

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

1. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin | Review

It wasn’t as fast-paced and jaw-dropping as A Storm of Swords, but I enjoyed this one a lot more than A Feast for Crows. It’s a massive book and I think it took me as long to read as about 4 or 5 average books, but it was worth it because I thought it was wonderfully well-written and subtle. It really rewards paying attention to detail and I just loved how all these different details are woven in. Plus I loved the characters and even though it felt very much like a transition book I thought it was a really good transition book (which was not the case with the book that came before it). So amazingly complex.

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

2. Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

Since this was one of the books I read during this busy month of December, I haven’t reviewed this one yet and plan to make it my first review of 2012. I absolutely loved everything about it. Cat’s narrative voice is excellent, and I just love how she words her thoughts. I also love her as a character, as well as the other characters and how they interact with each other. The dialogue is wonderful, and the romance! It is my type of romance where the two involved banter and you wonder if they’ll ever get together and it is just fantastic. Start to finish, I was just so happy to be reading it. And so ready for the next book when it ended!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Review

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite author discoveries of recent years and Daughter of Smoke and Bone was just beautiful. No one writes like Laini Taylor. Her writing is concise but gorgeous and she just gets how to describe emotions in a way you never thought of but that just fits perfectly. While she has amazing skill with prose, it’s not just a book with fantastic writing but one that is full of good qualities – her characters, mythology, and story are all fantastic as well. I devoured it. Bring on book 2!

4. The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear | Review

This ended the Edda of Burdens trilogy on a high note. It’s elegantly written, the characters have depth, and it has themes of transformation. It’s all based on Norse mythology, but it’s also still very much Bear’s own interpretation of the myths as they’re not completely familiar. It’s both poignant and heart-breaking, and this is one of the ones I think is one of the very best I read this year in addition to being a very readable favorite book.

5. Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire | Review

It’s a close call between this one and One Salt Sea, which both came out this year and were the two strongest installments in the Toby Daye series yet. But I’m giving it to Late Eclipses because it had so many of the revelations I’ve been waiting for in the series and it was so exciting to find out about them! This year these were quite easily my favorite books read in the urban fantasy genre. It has a great setting with the fae, a main character who has a strong and humorous narrative voice, and Tybalt! Tybalt just might be the character I’ve found myself talking about the most. (My husband may have decided I’m crazy this year just based on how I’ve gone on and on about Tybalt while reading one of these books.)

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

6. The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells | Review

This was one of those rare books that grabbed my attention from page 1 and just never let up. The world is fascinating, populated with races that are not human but have very human problems and personalities. I loved learning about the Raksura, a race of shapeshifters, and how their society worked and the main character is very endearing. The Cloud Roads was one of my biggest surprises of 2011 and has me wondering why I hadn’t read anything by Martha Wells sooner.

Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

7. Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey | Review

This ended up being my favorite book in the Naamah trilogy. I just loved how it came around full circle back to plots and people from the first book, the beautiful writing, and how different cultures and beliefs were portrayed with such compassion. It was also interesting to see more of the world as well as how far Moirin had come as a character since the first book in the trilogy. She wasn’t one of those static characters – her personality hadn’t really changed, but her experiences had shaped her and for that I thought she was a very well-developed character.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

8. Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock | Review

This was my favorite 2011 debut of the year I read. It’s character-driven, dark fantasy that left me thinking about it a lot because there was just so much about it I found really interesting. It has a different world with its own rules and is a very different take on the common fantasy story of the battle between heaven and hell. I also appreciated that the main character was 40 years old and acted like you would expect a 40-year-old man to act. One of the other major characters, Rachael, was also a mature adult with a strong sense of justice and fairness and I also loved reading about her.

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

9. All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen | Review

Favorite debut was a very close race between this and Miserere this year. They’re very different books and this steampunk adventure is one of the more fun books I’ve read this year. It’s inspired by both Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s about Violet, a brilliant young scientist, who cannot go to the best scientific academy because she’s a girl. So she dresses up as a boy and starts to fall for the headmaster, and of course, much entertainment ensues!

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

10. The Magician King by Lev Grossman | Review

This was a look at fantasy quests and what it means to be a hero. I found it really interesting to see how much Quentin had grown up in this second installment. He’s not perfect but  he is much more likable, and I think I liked it a little better than The Magicians because of that. Also, the ending! It was perfect but also depressing and it really stuck with me. I also loved the sense of humor in this book. There were a lot of lines that made me laugh out loud.

That was a tough one and I actually ended up surprising myself with #10. I had thought for sure that was going to be an honorable mention out of the twelve books I was considering. I was having a really hard time choosing between one book I had an immensely fun time reading but that I liked less the more I thought about the ending and one that I thought was an amazing book but just couldn’t connect to as much as I wanted to. Then I realized The Magician King was both a book I found both really enjoyable and really interesting, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought it fit on the above list instead.

Honorable Mentions for Books Published in 2011

  • Eona by Allison Goodman | Review
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente | Review

Of course, I also read some books published before 2011 that I wanted to mention. This list ended up being easy because there were exactly 5 books I thought stood out over all the other other ones.

Favorite Books Published Before 2011

The Native Star

1. The Native Star by M. K. Hobson | Review

This was my biggest surprise of the year when it came to books I loved. I never would have picked this up based on the back cover description, but I kept hearing it was good – and I was so glad I read it! The Native Star would probably be the most fun book I read all year. It hooked me almost immediately, and it was full of adventure and had a nice romance that slowly developed over the course of the book. I was absolutely enchanted by it.

A Fire Upon the Deep

2. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge | Review

Although I had a GREAT reading year in general, I didn’t have a very good one when it came to science fiction books. There was one SF book I really didn’t like and a couple I thought were ok. The rest were ones I liked but didn’t think were anything super special and then there was A Fire Upon the Deep, which was awesome. Vernor Vinge is one of my husband’s favorite authors, and he’s been after me to read this book for a while. I put it off because it looked long, and I thought it would be dry and dull and tedious. It did have it’s slow parts, but I ended up surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. It’s complex and imaginative, and I thought the alien race was very interesting. (I haven’t read the sequel that came out this year yet, though.)

Howl's Moving Castle

3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones | Review

This is such a charming story! Sophie, the girl who is transformed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste, is such a terrific character. And of course, Howl steals the show as the exceedingly vain but endearing wizard. He’s one of those characters who has flaws but they just make him all the better for it. There’s also a delightful sense of humor throughout the tale and it’s quite clear why this is such a beloved book by many.

Dragonsbane

4. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly | Review

Jenny and her choices was what made this book for me. Jenny is a 37-year-old woman who has tried to compromise between her love and their children and her magical studies. Because of this, she’s not a great mage and she has to wonder what might have been had she done what a mage is supposed to do and devoted herself entirely to her studies. It had such a heart-wrenching bittersweet ending – one of those endings where either choice comes with both good and bad, both happiness and sorrow. This is the best kind of ending.

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

5. The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

This is another book that is still sitting in my “to review” pile, which is a shame because I desperately want to read the next book and I told myself I can’t until I review this one. This is a fun series and this book just made me love the roguish Han and the determined Raisa even more (especially Han – Han is pure awesome). With the way this left off, I am DYING to read the next book!

Wow, that’s a lot of books! What are your favorite books you read in 2011?

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

As a Christmas gift to his fans, George R. R. Martin put up a sample chapter from The Winds of Winter. It will be at the beginning of this book, but it actually takes place before the end of A Dance With Dragons. Enjoy!

This is the actual complete list, not just the books that have covers and descriptions already that I’ve posted about so far. I think I might just keep “Books of 2012” going throughout 2012 as more information comes out on the books coming out later in the year and then just keep going with “Books of 2013” and so on.

As usual, I’m sure more books will come to my attention throughout the year that will look interesting, too, but right now these are the ones I’m most looking forward to (in no particular order with the ones I haven’t already done posts on first).

The Grail of the Summer Stars by Freda Warrington
This is the third Aetherial Tales book, along with Elfland (review) and Midsummer Night (review). It’s a stand alone story like the other two, but there are connections to the others. In an interview I did with her Freda Warrington mentioned that while Sam and Rosie will not have a huge part in it they will play an important role. She also said there will also be a more about Mist and Rufus’s past. Elfland was my favorite book read last year so I’m very excited about this one, especially after seeing what Freda had to say about it in her interview. The Grail of the Summer Stars is supposed to be released in summer or fall of 2012.

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
This will be the first book in a new urban fantasy trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what Jacqueline Carey does with it! Learning more about it when I interviewed her a few months ago also made me want to read it more. Here’s what she had to say about it:

 

Daisy Johanssen, my reluctant hell-spawn heroine, serves as the liaison between the mundane and eldritch authorities in a small Midwestern resort town that does a booming business in paranormal tourism.  When a young man drowns under suspicious circumstances, it falls to Daisy to investigate amidst rising tension.The series is a blend of whimsy, wonder and creepiness.   For me, one of the great appeals of urban fantasy is that rather than transporting the reader to another world, another time and place, it gives the reader a prism through which to view this world, here and now, and imbue it with magic.  That’s a marvelous gift.  The biggest challenge lies in the fact that this is a very crowded subgenre, and it’s not easy to put a fresh, unique spin on it.  But I’ll do my best!

I just love the sound of it! It will probably be released sometime in the fall of 2012.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
I love the October Daye series, an urban fantasy series featuring the fae. I mostly love them because I just love Toby’s narrative voice and the way her personality jumps off the page. But I also love them for the character Tybalt, the King of Cats, who is just plain awesome. This is a series that just keeps getting better and better and the two books that came out this year Late Eclipses (review) and One Salt Sea (review) were the very best yet. Ashes of Honor, the sixth book in the series, will be out in September 2012.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
This will be the start of a new science fiction series, and I think it will be interesting to see a collaboration between these two authors. I’ve read all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books but one (not including the YA series which I haven’t read at all). I haven’t read Stephen Baxter yet, but he’s been on my radar for a while with a reputation for writing very good science fiction. The Long Earth will be released on June 19, 2012.

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott
I read Cold Fire during this busy month of December and haven’t had a chance to review it yet (but I definitely will, probably next book I review). It completely took me by surprise and ended up as one of my very favorite books read this year. I was expecting to like it since I did enjoy Cold Magic, but I wasn’t expecting to love it so much. Cat’s narrative voice pretty much made the book for me, though. Well, her and the other characters and the dialogue. Oh, and finding out more about certain things… I just loved it, and it made the final book in the trilogy one of my very most wanted books of 2012.

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about getting a book about Andrea instead of the sixth Kate Daniels book next year and wasn’t even sure if I’d read it. Book 5 is left off like that with this tantalizing part making me think it will get to what I have been waiting for and it won’t even be continued until 2013?! I understand the reasoning behind it since apparently book 6 is planned and what happens in this book needs to happen before that, but I just really want the next Kate book, being impatient as I am. While I’d still prefer a book about Kate, I did come to the realization that OF COURSE I will read Andrea’s book. I like Andrea and her friendship with Kate, and I’m now starting to get more curious about this book now that I’m getting used to the idea of it. Gunmetal Magic is currently scheduled for August 31, 2012.

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells | More Details
The Cloud Roads (review) was one of my favorite books of 2011 so I’m very excited about the sequel. It’s set in a fascinating world about characters who aren’t human and has plenty of heart. The official release date is January 3, but it seems to already be available on Amazon at least.

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper | More Details
This is a debut novel that came out in the UK this year that sounds like it could be rather interesting as it deals with issues like religion and persecution for having certain abilities. It will be available in the US at the end of February.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire | More Details
I do not want to miss the first book in a new series by one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. The InCryptid series sounds like such fun, and the little bit of read of the ARC seems like fun too. It will be released in March.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear | More Details
It’s the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy, Eternal Sky, by one of my favorite authors so of course I must read it! I have an early copy of this one and the writing in the opening is beautiful. It will be released in March.

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier | More Details
This is a book by a new-to-me author I’ve been hearing good things about. It’s also supposed to be a stand-alone so it sounded like a good place to start! House of Shadows will be available in July.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed | More Details
This is another debut novel that looks very interesting. Saladin Ahmed’s short fiction is supposed to be very good, and I really like the looks of this novel with its Arabian setting and cast of characters, including an old ghul hunter who just wants to retire. It will be released in February.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin | More Details
N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy was riveting with its gods and conversational prose style, and I’m really interested in seeing what she does with a new setting with priests of the dream goddess. The Killing Moon will be released in May.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore | More Details

This is a companion novel to Graceling and Fire, Kristin Cashore’s previous two young adult fantasy novels. I enjoyed Graceling and I LOVED Fire so I have high hopes for this one since the books seem to be getting better. Bitterblue is scheduled for publication in May.

Which books are you most looking forward to in 2012?