Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

1. The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop

There are two series that have shown up consistently on every favorites list since I started blogging. The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of them. Bishop’s world might be dark, convoluted, twisted, and heavy-handed, but it’s engrossing nonetheless. I adore Daemon, Saetan, and Lucivar, with their family dynamic that was both hilarious and heartbreaking at times.

2. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

The second perpetual resident of my favorites lists, Moning’s Fever series was nothing like I expected it to be. I had avoided it for years, having heard it was very much angst with very little joy to be had for the heroine. Thankfully, I decided to ignore those reviewers this year, and was immediately swept away into Mac’s world of fae-infested Dublin. In a year of great character discoveries, Barrons is definitely one of my favorites.

3. Blackout by Rob Thurman

I’ve been following Thurman’s Cal Leandros series for years, yet for some reason, I always manage to forget just how great it is before reading a new installment. Blackout likely cured me of that habit for good, for as great as the series had been until this point, the sixth book is her best by far. Blackout is like a love letter to fans who have stuck it out since the beginning. I won’t explain how that’s the case for fear of revealing too much, since the reward lies in piecing together each bit on your own.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

It was with reluctance that I purchased this book at the start of the year. Everything about it seemed too young to resonate with me: the inane title, the saccharine cover, even the description failed to truly appeal to me. Yet it was receiving such rave reviews that I knew there had to be something deeper lying beneath the surface. What I found was one of the most charming, realistic, and sympathetic love stories I’ve read. Anna and the French Kiss captures utterly what it is like to be in the beginning stages of crushing, friendship, and love. Its characters aren’t perfect, but Anna is such a relatable and likable narrator that your devotions and hope never sway.

5. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

I believed that I had given up on the Cassie Palmer series, having read and been slightly annoyed by Cassie’s incessant whining in Curse the Dawn. While Cassie’s relationship with Mercea was interesting at the start, I didn’t really care for the direction it was going in, and Cassie herself wasn’t compelling enough as a heroine for me to stick with her story. Yet after several years’ hiatus, the series returned this summer with Hunt the Moon, and the excellent reviews prompted me to pick it up despite myself. The fifth installment returned to the action-packed, high-speed storytelling of the first novels, yet for once Cassie seemed confident and competent. She still did her fair share of whining, but it no longer came across as petulant. Shockingly, as I became engrossed in the story, I realized a faux pas of my own that I rarely make, yet that will affect how I view the series going forward. It’s not often that I jump on the wrong ship at the start, but suffice it to say my affections have shifted, and having reread the series with that perspective in mind, I’m now fully on board.

6. Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund

This series is so far outside my comfort zone that I expected to set it down within the first twenty pages. I care nothing for chick lit, especially when the heroine is a rather self-absorbed, promiscuous college student being sucked into the underbelly of secret society life. Yet while I never managed to warm up to Amy fully, I fell in love with the camaraderie she shared with her fellow Diggers and with the unusual courtship she shares with one particular Rose and Grave member.

7. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Despite my love of romance, I tended to stay away from pure romance novels, particularly contemporaries. Yet this title showed up so frequently on Best Of lists that I had to give it a try. Bet Me wound up being a rare one indeed, one in which I was consistently surprised yet never disappointed. I hugged it when I finished, which is a rare honor.

8. The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

I made it halfway through Shiver in college before putting it down, having determined that the instalove romance was nice yet not intriguing enough to take time away from the other books in my TBR pile. After winning a copy of Forever this summer, I decided to give the series one more chance, and while I had the same initial impressions, by the end of the book, I realized that Stiefvater’s lovely writing and the conviction with which she writes Sam and Grace’s relationship elevates this series above its peers despite its questionable premise.

9. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

After months of searching for this title, I finally found an arc for a dollar in a thrift store. While I hadn’t read Saving Francesca in a while, I remembered having liked Tom’s character in the previous novel and was interested to see how Will and Francesca were faring. As with every Marchetta novel, I was captivated by the storytelling, yet The Piper’s Son took me to a place that Saving Francesca only hinted at. I’m confident that adults and teens alike can enjoy Marchetta’s novels, yet this was the first that I felt really deserved a spot in the general fiction section. Tom’s story is frustrating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, yet it wrings your emotions out several times before it achieves its ultimate goal.

10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

While reading this series, I knew I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t sure whether I found it merely entertaining or compulsively readable; since I rarely start a book without finishing it in the same day, I wasn’t able to set it down and answer that question. It wasn’t until I had completed the third book in this series that I realized how brilliant it is. As Turner follows Gen through triumph and tragedy, she shifts perspective in each novel so that, even with Gen as the narrator, no one is ever as they seem. Thus, even those revelations guessed ahead of time taste all the sweeter.

 Honorable Mentions

Ravished by Amanda Quick, When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, and The Proposition by Judith Ivory

I read at least a dozen Beauty and the Beast-inspired novels this year, and of them all, these three were my favorites.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

A quick, easy read, this novel written in verse tells one of the sweetest love stories I read this year. Unfortunately, you have to wade through quite a bit of teen melodrama to get there, but the payoff is worth it.

The Curseworkers series by Holly Black

White Cat and Red Glove are the first two in a trilogy of young adult urban fantasy novels that introduce a world unlike anything I’ve read in the genre before. Throw in a male narrator reminiscent of Cal Leandros, and my love for this series is sealed.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

This young adult book about love and loss managed to take multiple tropes that I despise and work them is such a way that I loved the story and the characters anyway.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Every book in the Toby Daye series is golden, and the latest upped the game in such a way that my expectations for Ashes of Honor are ridiculously high.

Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

This penultimate book in the Sirantha Jax series was hard to read, yet it cemented my dedication to the characters. Sirantha has displayed one of the most pronounced character developments in any series that I’ve read, and while her ending has no guarantee of happiness, I have no doubt that Aguirre will give these great characters a worthy finale.

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It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

A Family Affair by Karen Chance

Fateful by Claudia Gray

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

 Reading Now

Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren

 The Week Ahead

Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

 Reading Now

A Family Affair by Karen Chance

 The Week Ahead

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Book Endings That Left Me With My Mouth Hanging Open (because of the cliffhanger or because it the ending was MINDBLOWING, etc.)

1. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Everyone who has read the Fever series knows what I’m talking about on this one. For those of you who haven’t read it, make sure you have Shadowfever at the ready, or else you’ll wind up staked out at the bookstore waiting for the doors to open (true story).

2. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Not only is the Cat and Bones relationship one of the best in the paranormal field, but this first installment in the Night Huntress series defies expectations of what a paranormal romance should be.

3. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

 

Few can read this series without coming to love Mercy, and so the trials she undergoes in this third book of the series hit especially hard. Briggs does a wonderful job in portraying the events that unfold realistically (as much so as can be expected in a fantasy series) and without gratuitous grittiness.

4. Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

Few books have left me with my mouth hanging open, but this one takes the cake. It’s been a cruel kind of torture having to wait for the final book in the trilogy, but I’m thrilled that this unfortunately orphaned series has found a publisher at last.

5. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

I’m never sure whether I really like this series until I read the latest book. Then, I lament the long lag-times in between installments. This latest was the best yet and ended with quite the cliffhanger.

6. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Thank goodness I have the trilogy in a bound set; otherwise, I would have been scouring local bookstores searching for the second book in this trilogy. This first book ends with a bang, and the repercussions haunt the characters in the wake.

7. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Upon finishing this book, I looked up and demanded of anyone in the vicinity, “That’s it?!” This one was jaw-dropping simply for my incredulity at Armstrong’s decision to break up what is essentially one storyline into three books.

8. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I believe that Sunshine is to be my never-ending lament. I just can’t reconcile myself to the fact that the story is over; there’s so much more there that needs to be explored, but until it is, I will have to be content with my poorly-written fanfiction (which I cannot even post, per McKinley’s request).

9 & 10. Shadow Kiss and Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

I won’t say to much for fear of spoiling the series, but for those who haven’t read it, I’ll simply advise you to have some tissues ready.

Author Extras: It’s not over just because you’ve turned the last page.

Whether you’ve finished reading the entire series or are simply waiting for the release of the next installment, authors’ websites often offer wonderful features, including extra stories starring beloved characters, that help to fill in gaps and tide you over til the next dose hits the shelves. Here are some that I’ve come across in my travels.

photo courtesy of Carolyn Crane

Carolyn Crane often guest-authors posts featuring character interviews and other goodies, including what you can expect to find in a Disillusionist’s closet, what does a Disillusionist carry around?, an interview with Packard, the Disillusionists discussing urban legends, an interview with Shelby, and Disillusionist trading cards.

Karen Marie Moning has interviews with Jericho Barrons and Dageus MacKeltar, among others. Also check out her facebook fanpage for a very special scene written from one Jericho Barrons’ POV.

Jeaniene Frost posts deleted scenes from her Night Huntress series.

Dianne Sylvan has extras including a deleted epilogue from Queen of Shadows and an interview with the cast.

Diane Peterfreund has posted short stories set during the course of the Secret Society Girl series.

Jackie Kessler offers Jezebel, the protagonist of her Hell on Earth series, the chance to host her own radio show.

Marjorie Liu has character profiles for her Dirk & Steele series, as well as deleted scenes.

Jeri Smith-Ready posts tie-in stories for her Shade, WVMP Radio, and Aspects of Crow series.

Larissa Ione has short stories focused on each of the couples in her Demonica series, set after the events of the books as well as The Demonica Compendium to help keep track of demon species and more.

Jocelynn Drake has multiple deleted scenes for her Dark Days series.

Kelley Armstrong has written a ton of free short stories set in her Otherworld universe, featuring both main characters as well as those who don’t get much airtime in the novels.

Karen Chance has posted some free short stories featuring characters from her Cassie Palmer series as well as a gallery of characters.

photo courtesy of Gail Carriger

Erin Kellison has an awesome interactive website for the Segue Institute. Poke around, play some games (hinthint) for a great surprise.

Gail Carriger offers tons of tidbits for her Parasol Protectorate series, including character studies and an interactive dress-up Alexa.

J.R. Ward posts short snippets featuring the Brothers as well as deleted scenes from her BDB and Fallen Angels books.

Rob Thurman has a great character gallery for her Cal Leandros series and a deleted scene from Madhouse.

Maria V. Snyder has posted three short stories featuring characters from her Study series, as well as a few others.

Seanan McGuire posts snippets starring characters from her Toby Daye series, as well as comic strips.

Keri Arthur has a Quinn and Riley short story.

Rachel Caine offers free short stories set in her Weather Wardens universe.

Stacia Kane has deleted scenes from her Downside series.

Stephanie Meyer has outtakes posted for Twilight and New Moon, as well as extras for New Moon, and the partial draft of Midnight Sun.

Lilith Saintcrow has a free serial novella starring Selene from her Dante Valentine series.

Ann Aguirre has free shorts featuring March and Vel from her Sirantha Jax series.

Ilona Andrews often posts snippets. Also check out the sidebar for a free Kate tweet short

photo courtesy of Ilona Andrews

story and Curran shorts.

Nalini Singh has deleted scenes and short stories set in her Psy-Changeling world as well as interview with Elena and Michael from her Guild Hunter series.

Kalayna Price has posted a deleted scene from her novel Once Bitten.

Nancy A. Collins has a wonderful website that takes you on a virtual tour through the world of her Golgotham series.

Meljean Brook has posted trading cards from her Iron Seas and Guardians series, as well as a deleted scene from Demon Moon.

Melissa Marr has posted extras from her Wicked Lovely series including deleted and retold scenes.

Beth Fantaskey posted a novella set after the events of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.

Kevin Hearne posted a free short story set before the events of his Iron Druid series.

Jenna Black has a free short story prequel to her Fairiewalker series.

Elizabeth Hoyt has interviews with and articles written by some of her characters, along with some other goodies.

Amy Plum has extras for her novel Die for Me including a scene from Vincent’s POV and a deleted prologue.

Chloe Neill has extras for her Chicagoland Vampires series including virtual tours of Chicago and character casts.

photo courtesy of Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber has some free reads and deleted scenes set in her Percy Parker world.

Linnea Sinclair has posted a prologue and deleted scenes for Games of Command.

Liz Berry has posted photos to recreate a virtual tour of Ravensmere from The China Garden.

Becca Fitzpatrick has outtakes to Hush, Hush.

Sarah Rees Brennan has short stories set in her Demon’s Lexicon series.

Eileen Wilks has extras from her World of the Lupi series, including a deleted scene from Night Season and a short story starring Cynna.

Kat Richardson has a short story starring Harper from her Greywalker series.

C.E. Murphy has a short story from her Walker Papers series.

Jaye Wells has short stories from her Sabina Kane series.

Shiloh Walker has a free short story from her Grimm series.

Anya Bast posted a free short story from her Elemental Witches series.

Jaime Rush has a prestory and deleted scene for her novel A Perfect Darkness, the first of her Offspring series.

Katie MacAlister posts free short stories from her Dark Ones series, among others.

Stephanie Perkins posted a bonus scene from Anna and the French Kiss.

Holly Black wrote a series of interchangeable vignettes from the point of view of Lila from her Curse Workers series.

These links represent many of my favorite authors, but they’re not the only ones! There are tons more great authors out there, so if you come across any special features that you want to share, just shoot me a link and I’ll be happy to add it to the list. I’m also creating a page to keep track of author extras, which will be updated whenever I come across new ones, so check back!