“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

After sticking by Jax through her adventures for the last few years, it’s bittersweet to finally see the cover of the final book in the Sirantha Jax series, Endgame, by Ann Aguirre.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Sirantha Jax has the J-gene, which permits her to “jump” faster-than-light

Endgame by Ann Aguirre

ships through grimspace. She loves nothing more than that rush, but the star roads have to wait…

Her final mission takes her to La’heng, a planet subjugated during first contact. Since then, the La’hengrin homeworld has been occupied by foreign conquerors.

All that’s about to change.

Now, as part of a grass-roots resistance, Jax means to liberate the La’hengrin. Political intrigue and guerrilla warfare are new to her; this will be the most dangerous game she’s ever played—spies and conspiracies, a war of weapons and hearts, and everyone might not make it out alive…

Aguirre hasn’t pulled any punches in the past, so I’m actually pretty trepidatious heading into this last installment, but I have faith that Aguirre will take her cast of characters where they need to go, if not necessarily where fans want them to go.

This title is released on August 28, 2012.

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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 Books That Broke Your Heart A Little

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This book ruined me for all other books for a month. I couldn’t contemplate even attempting to immerse myself in a new novel after having experienced Henry and Clare’s heartbreaking love story.

2. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Had I not started this series after all five books were complete and available in stores, the last chapter of this book would have been my undoing.

3. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Shortly after the start of this second book in Gen’s story, he experiences something that is unexpected and tragic. I applaud Turner for taking a chance, yet my heart ached for Gen’s loss.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I won’t begin to summarize why this book broke my heart, for anyone who is a Green fan is aware of the beautiful agony that this story creates.

5. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

This first book in Frost’s fantastic paranormal series broke new ground in more ways than one, not the least of which was her willingness to end the book on an unconventionally ambiguous note.

6. Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

Throughout the Sirantha Jax series, Aguirre has portrayed a protagonist who has grown exponentially as she has struggled to cope with one tragedy after another. Aguirre accomplishes a rare feat in writing Sirantha’s development, for her progress never comes across as contrived, which makes her struggles all the more heartwrending.

7. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Tom Mackee’s story is uncomfortable yet poignant as he reluctantly sheds an exterior hardened by five years of uncertainty and loss. Even as we witness Tom’s slow reemergence into the lives of his family and friends, we know that some things might be beyond repair, but that doesn’t prevent us from hoping for a happy resolution.

8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I doubt I will ever recover from the shock ending of this novel, though the experience of reading it will remain with me forever.

And perhaps it’s a bit unorthodox, but even though I’ve yet to read the next two books, I’ve no doubt they would be on this list had I read them already, so I’m including them.

9. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

While I’m excited to read this title based on the fabulous reviews I’ve read, I have no doubt that my heart will be aching by book’s end.

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I have been putting off reading this book for too long, though I’m sure my tears will be unbearable.

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 Books I’m Excited To Read in 2012

1. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

2. Doubletake by Rob Thurman

3. Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

4. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

5. Black Heart by Holly Black

6. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

7. Lothaire by Kresley Cole

8. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

9. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

10. Endgame by Ann Aguirre

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.

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday is a meme created at the blog of the same name that poses a different question about reading each week.

This week’s questions is:

What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters? Or an amazing, page-turning plot?

(Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?

Just a few of the leading ladies of urban fantasy who keep me coming back for more: Kate Daniels, Toby Daye, Sirantha Jax, MacKayla Lane, Mercy Thompson, Cat Crawfield, Justine Jones, and Kitty Katt

I’ve already answered this exact question for a previous Musing Mondays meme, which can be seen here. I’ll repeat the answer I gave before.

 

I read for the characters. Half the time, I honestly don’t even care how novel or complex the plot is (or, often the case, is not). World-building is exciting and helps to draw me into the novel, but if the characters aren’t relatable or believable, I will likely jump ship. While many people probably find their literary cathartic relief through the experience of living another person’s trials and adventures, I live for absorbing the emotions of the story. An author finds a place on my auto-buy list when I can actually feel my stomach twist or my heart ache along with the character.

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!