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21 August 2009 @ 12:50 pm
Top Five meme  
dragonsinger asked for the top five books I've read this year.

I read a lot. This was a tall order. Luckily, when scrolling through the reading list on my kindle, there were some definite stand outs for 2009 that made themselves clear. These are listed in the order in which I read them:

1. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines (jimhines)

I love fairy tales, and I particularly love retold fairy tales that expand on them in unexpected, delightful ways. This was one of those books that made me feel all warm and fuzzy, and wanting more when I was done turning the last page. I liked it so well, I wrote my first ever amazon review of it. Here's a snippet: Unable to put it down for long, I finished it in one day, and at the end, I turned the last page hoping for more. Very real, well drawn characters draw you in to the story, and fantastic descriptions, world building, adventure, and emotion keep you glued to the pages. At times, I was reminded of movies like Labyrinth or the Dark Crystal (for setting). Shades of Ever After, as well, but I say these only as a passing feeling of nostalgic warm fuzzies (all movies I liked or loved to one degree or another). This book stands completely on its own. Touches like Snow's snowflake "throwing stars" or Danielle's glass sword are unique and perfect for the story Hines is telling. I kept turning pages, not only for the story, but to see what lovely little bits of scenery Hines would include next.

2. Bone Crossed, Mercy Thompson, book 4 by Patricia Briggs

This is one of the most stellar, consistently high quality urban fantasy series out there. Each book gets better than the last, and the characters grow and change naturally as they go through some pretty traumatic things. Briggs isn't afraid to put her characters through really bad stuff, and treat her characters very realistically in the process. Particularly in this fourth book, the main character, Mercy, could easily have turned down one of those roads I loathe - doing something stupid for the sake of the story, or for the sake of keeping two characters apart to create more tension. It's a pet peeve of mine that some authors do in long running series. I was sure, when I started reading Bone Crossed, that we were headed to a place just like that. But it didn't. The character surprised me, and acted like a rational, thinking, 3-dimensional human being! This fourth book could have been a turning point to mediocrity, and instead was my favorite so far in the series. :)

As for what it's about, Mercy Thompson is an auto mechanic who shape shifts into the form of a coyote. Her next door neighbor, Adam, is the local werewolf pack alpha, and might be the love of her life, when he's not irritating the crap out of her. Her childhood sweetheart, another alpha wolf by the name of Samuel, isn't about to just step aside and let Adam have her without a fight, and Mercy's relations with the local fae and vampire groups are complicated, to say the least. you obviously want to start with the first book in the series, Moon Called.

3. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)

What can I say? This series is almost 30 books strong, and I still love it to pieces. The newest book is always my most anticipated read of the season, each and every time one hits shelves. Eve and Roarke are strong, compelling main characters, both separately and as a couple. I think where Roberts really excels, even after 28 books, is in her characters. They grow and change. Old conflicts get laid to rest, and new conflicts come about naturally in their wake. They don't feel contrived, or put there to create tension. They are created by the characters and their personalities and experiences. The side characters are just as compelling as the main characters, and they change and grow as the books progress just as much. In particular, Promises in Death does a lot with some of those side characters, as the murder this book investigates is one of their own, a character we have grown somewhat familiar with in the last few books, romantically linked with a character we've known since the beginning of the series. It gave this entry in the series a deeper impact. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend the first book, Naked in Death.

4. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

Like the In Death series, the Dresden books do not suffer from ongoing series lag - in fact, Book 11 is my favorite to date, although I'd say I've loved the last five or six books nearly as much. The Dresden books are different from a lot of urban fantasy out there - first, the main character is a guy - Harry Dresden, wizard. Second, they hit the shelves at the very start of the urban fantasy trend. You could even say, they helped spark it. They start out fairly simple - a wizard PI helps the police with supernaturally affected cases. But as the books progress, Harry's life gets dramatically more complicated, and so does the series in general. Also like the In Death books, the side characters here are just as compelling as the MC. And you never quite know what's going to happen next, or to who. (I got teary eyed at the end of this one, but I won't tell you why.) I anticipate the next Dresden book with almost as much glee as the next Eve and Roarke. I hope Jim never gets tired of writing them. The first book is Storm Front.

5. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews (ilona_andrews)

I reviewed an ARC of this one on my journal here. Here's a snippet:

I've thoroughly enjoyed both of the previous books in this series, but this was by far my favorite. Truthfully, I've been waiting on pins and needles for it since I finished Book 2. The characters are nicely established now, and the relationships Kate has with others in her sphere are deepening and getting more complicated, despite her need to keep secrets. (There are parts of Kate's origins that even the reader doesn't know yet, an ongoing plot thread that winds through the entire series.) The banter between Kate and Curran, in particular, was full of tension, humor, and unresolved feeling. I won't lie - following how their relationship progresses is my favorite part of the series, although all of Kate's interactions keep you reading. Her mentoring of Derek the werewolf, the odd contest of wills she continues with the dangerously powerful Samain. All of these things are woven nicely into the plot; in fact, it is her friendship with Derek that starts the plot rolling in this book.

Much like when I finished Book 2, finishing the third book in the Kate Daniels series left me wondering when we can expect book 4. The writing is strong, the characters fascinating, and the tension keeps ratcheting higher. The first book is Magic Bites.

So that's it, my favorite five books thus far in 2009! It was tough, cause I easily could have done a favorite ten. :D
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soundingsea: vm - lilly - deadsoundingsea on August 21st, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
On the way home from work, I stopped by the library and picked up Naked in Death. I just started it and 30 pages in, it's pretty entertaining. (Of course, I kinda got spoiled by your mention of Roarke, but whatcha gonna do.) Thanks for the rec!
rhienellethrhienelleth on August 22nd, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Sure! Hope you like it. :) I didn't even think about spoiling them as a couple. Er, oops.

Just an added rec: if you decide you want to read more, I advise taking a wee break every five or so books. 28 in a row can be a bit too much, even for a series I love this much. :D
soundingseasoundingsea on August 22nd, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Hee! Well.... unfortunately the author is doing one of the main things that drives me crazy in fiction, which is to say, brief seemingly arbitrary POV shifts. For a couple seconds, we'll get his POV on her, and then it's back to being inside her head.

Does that ever stop? Or is it present throughout the whole series? I really really prefer a tight-focused 3rd person limited POV (with switches at a scene or chapter break if necessary).
kill ’em with deliciousnesskismeteve on August 27th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
I picked up Naked in Death, and so far, I'm enjoying it a lot.
rhienellethrhienelleth on August 27th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
:D I really enjoy the entire series. Let me know what you think if you keep reading!