top ten new-to-me authors i read in 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | | 5 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

This week most of my fellow Top Ten Tuesday meme compatriots are sharing their 'Best of 2014' lists, but I'm nowhere near ready.  My best-of-the-year list will likely appear... in late January, if tradition holds! I haven't yet shared my favorite new (to me) author finds from 2014, so that's what's happening today.  I look forward to what these authors will do in the future, and in the case of a few, delving into their backlists.  New author discovery is a wonderful thing!

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2014

1. Rosamund Hodge – If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I feel strongly about fantasy world-building, good writing, and that I'm a sucker for fairy tales retold.  Hodge wrote two fantastic standalone stories that combined all three this year (Cruel Beauty and Gilded Ashes).  I can't to see what she does next.

2. Malala Yousafzai – Recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala is an inspiring figure and a whip-smart student.  Her memoir I Am Malala makes it clear that this girl/woman is destined for even greater things.  I hope she continues to write, because her story and her drive make for fantastic reading.

3. Emily Croy Barker – Dear the world, I would like to see more intelligent, thoughtful, feminist adult fantasy out there.  Take The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic as an example, and we'll all be fine.  Seriously!  Love, Me.

4. Sylvia Izzo Hunter – One debut author this year wrote just the sort of book that gives me warm fuzzy feelings.  The Midnight Queen was a gem.  Can't wait for more in this world!

5. Rachel Neumeier – I've had several people tell me over the years that I should really try Neumeier's books.  Charlotte at Charlotte's Library is a big fan, and I felt bad that the one book I'd picked up previously went back to the library mostly unread.  Enter Black Dog.  I was smitten with the heroine of this book from page one.  I get the hype now!

6. Ben Hatke – Do you like comics/graphic novels/picture books?  Basically, anything that counts as story+illustration on paper?  Get thee to a Ben Hatke book!  His middle grade sci-fi graphic novel Zita the Spacegirl and totally adorable picture book Julia's House for Lost Creatures turned me into a huge fan.  

7. Maya Angelou – Here is a sad thing: Sometimes it takes an ending to get the ball rolling.  In this case, I knew of Angelou, but I had never read her.  I was inspired to pick up her cookbook Hallelujah! The Welcome Table after her death in May, and I was impressed, inspired and all-around entertained by her writing.  The only negative emotion around here is regret, that I didn't get to her work before she passed.

8. Kat EllisBlackfin Sky.  This book!  It's quirky and weird and the kind of morbid that I find funny.  It's also got a circus, a dead girl, and one (or several?) murderers.  Just the sort of thriller-y read for a cold winter's night, and just the sort of push I needed to start following Ellis.  I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

9. Lydia Millet – Lydia Millet made me want to read dystopian YA again, just when I thought I couldn't handle any more.  Her eco- and pharma-apocalyptic diary Pills and Starships hit all of the right notes (for me).  I'll happily look into her backlist now!

10. Leah Cypess – How did this author win me over?  With assassins, magic, a corrupt political system and a cave.  Also, love?  And plots!  Death Sworn was a roller coaster of a book and I'm always up for fantastical adventures...

I’m excited to go hunting through posts of best new authors from last week.  Tell me, who were your new favorite authors in 2014?

monday memories – the lion, the witch and the wardrobe

Monday, December 15, 2014 | | 1 comments
Emma of Miss Print and Nicole at The Book Bandit have started a new weekly feature called Monday Memories.  To participate, all you have to do is take a photo of one of your books (or a library book that means a lot to you) and talk a bit about why it made an impression.  Today I'm going to talk about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia series.  My mother read the books aloud to those of us who would listen (I was… seven, maybe?), going all the way through the series, even though we didn’t really ‘get’ The Last Battle.  Several years later, she reread them again, so that my brothers (who had been toddlers the first time around) could get the same experience.  I remember that first time through the series with fondness – I fell a little in love with Mr. Tumnus and Puddleglum – but I got to see the books through my brothers’ eyes the second time.  They adored Mr. & Mrs. Beaver, and Reepicheep the mouse, and all of the sword fighting and battles.  There’s something very special about seeing a book you love come to life for a loved one.

When my mother was reading through the books the first time, she borrowed library copies, but the second time around, my grandmother had sent her own copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  It stayed with us.  When my parents were paring down their own book collection a few years ago I snagged it for my shelves.  And last night, when I was photographing it for this feature, I realized that it is a first edition. 


Needless to say, I will be careful with it forever after.  I already loved this book, but now it’s precious.  Oh, books!  May my love affair with you never end.

the darkest part of the forest

I spent a large portion of this year’s Book Expo America standing in lines.  It was my sister’s first time, and she wanted to meet Jason Segel and Jane Lynch and other ‘high profile’ authors whose lines stretched (or seemed to stretch) into oblivion.  That meant that I had a lot of quality time to chat with friends.  One of those friends, Emma from Miss Print, said she had an extra copy of Holly Black’s forthcoming fairy book. Intrigued, I asked if it was a standalone (I’m so weary of series!). She responded in the affirmative.  It was a done deal.  So when The Darkest Part of the Forest arrived at my house, I read it in one marathon session, staying up late into the night and savoring the enchantment that is a Holly Black book.  Oh yes, it’s good.

the darkest part of the forest by holly black book cover
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Fairfold is a tiny town tucked away in a forest, where the locals live alongside the Folk… and (mostly) aren’t troubled by the fact.  Tourists disappear every year though – that’s part of the bargain.  Hazel and Ben grew up in Fairfold, and except for a few years away in Philadelphia they have lived their entire lives there.  Fairfold, with its horned prince lying in a glass casket in the woods, with its acknowledged fairy changeling, and with the strange mix of dread, denial and dreaming that lies thick over everything. When Hazel begins to find sinister messages and ‘lose’ bits of time, she believes her idyll is running out.  For Hazel, even though she knew the consequences, once made a bargain…

Hazel lives like there’s no tomorrow, in part because she doesn’t believe she has (or deserves) one. Her fear and numerous falsehoods are tied up together, but she cares for her brother deeply, and desperately needs crusade, a reason to save others – even if she can’t save herself.  She kisses boys she doesn’t like to distract herself from the other bad decisions she’s made.  She’s outwardly strong, and always, always fights for what is right.  Hazel works to forget the things she doesn’t want to remember, and carries her secrets, doubts and sorrows close to her chest.  She’s both strong and fragile, complicated and not, full of guilt and self-loathing, while wishing (or often not letting herself wish) for good things.

In a way, her brother Ben sees some of these troubles – and sometimes he misses them completely.  He’s a fish out of water himself – gay in a small town, gifted in music through a fairy touch, and counting down the days until he can find something different.  Ben has chosen to fight his Folk-entwined fate, and he’s in love with the fairy prince in the casket.  Ben and Hazel’s friend Jack, the only changeling in Fairfold, sees more than Ben, but he has his own reasons.  And all of them are twined together by love, secrecy, and power.

What is this story about?  It’s got the typical Black twistiness and it’s unnerving and strange, like an otherworldly fairy people would be.  At the same time, it’s about justice, sibling love/rivalry, about the dreams that make it seem worth it to sacrifice your life.  Black asks (through her beautiful prose): What are you willing to sacrifice, and who are you willing to sacrifice it for?  What changes when love comes into the picture?  How do you deal with a society entirely ‘other?’  The answers are chilling, honest, and hopeful by turns.

Oh, and yes, there’s kissing.  And diverse characters.  And a mystery that unravels like a con.  My only complaint, as it were, is that the ending ties up a bit too neatly (I’m one of those few who prefer a loose end or two).  However, I read a very early advanced reading copy, so there’s a chance things will change.  I should note that the conclusion did not in any way affect my enjoyment of the book. I thought it was a delicious read: all dark and dangerous.  Black’s writing is (as always) addictive, vibrant, and delightful.

Recommended for: fans of Charles de Lint, Emma Bull and Sarah Rees Brennan, and anyone who likes young adult fantasy and fairy stories, the darker the better.

The Darkest Part of the Forest will be released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette) on January 13, 2015.

Fine print: I read an ARC version of this book that I received from a book-reviewing friend.  I did not receive any compensation for this post.

top ten books i’m looking forward to in 2015

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 | | 8 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Oh hello there!  It’s been a while.  I have been busy reading not-books (uhm… fan fiction?) for the past few months and have sadly neglected my reading schedule, real-books, and the blog.  I’m back now.  And I have brought with me… three months worth of reading guilt (as you do)!  All of those books I didn’t get to during my months away are languishing… and I’m here today talking about more books that aren’t even published yet?!  Yes, yes I am.  [insert proverb/pithy saying about the reading heart/brain wanting what it wants]  So yeah, these are the books I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Sorry/not sorry. *grin*

Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

1. Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross – I read Cross’ first book Kill Me Softly, and while I thought the writing was decent it was really the concept that captured my interest (fairy tales crossed with the modern world plus added danger).  I couldn’t put it down.  I’m excited to see what happens next in Beau Rivage.

2. Omega City by Diana Peterfreund – I really liked Peterfreund’s two recent YA sci-fi/historical mash-ups, and I can already tell that I’ll love this middle grade book, too.  It has been likened to City of Ember.  Need I say more?

3. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – Totes cheating on this one.  I’ve already read it.  And it was FANTASTIC.  I can’t wait to purchase a finished copy.  It will be so beautiful!

4. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – Can we talk?  Let’s talk.  I liked Hodge’s debut novel Cruel Beauty.  But I loved her novella Gilded Ashes.  What does this tell me? I will likely ADORE (with all caps!) her next book.  Here’s hoping!

5. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente – You know the type of story that you want to distill into a cordial because you’re very sure drinking it would make you live forever or some such?  I feel that way about Valente’s Fairyland books.  I will gladly make a place in my heart for another one.

6. The Apple Throne by Tessa Gratton – Do you like Norse mythology, kissing and/or fantastic alternate universes?  Good, me too.  Now, have you read Tessa Gratton’s United States of Asgard stories, starting with The Lost Sun?  Go do that.  Unfortunately, the series was canceled after book #2 (we won’t go into how sad that made me…).  GOOD NEWS alert!  Gratton will be self-publishing the final book in the series.  It sounds amazeballs.  I haven’t even read the novellas set in the same world yet, but I’m excited.  Also, did I mention that one time Gratton wrote crossover Avengers/USofAsgard fanfiction?  *love*

7. Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop – I've read the previous two books in The Others series (starting with Written in Red) on the day they came out.  I mean that in an I-didn't-sleep-and-then-went-to-work-and-then-reread-the-books-the-very-next-day kind of way.  I'd call it a problem, but it's so enjoyable...

8. Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison – The beautiful book cover caught my eye, and then I saw the words beast and curse in conjunction.  SOLD!

9. Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci – First book Tin Star was a serious win.  Intelligent, beautifully-written young adult science fiction?  Yes, I'll have some more.

10. The Just City by Jo Walton – Time travel + education + philosophy + Greek mythology = Oooookay, I'll read it.  With pleasure!

Honorable Mention: Ebon by Robin McKinley – I know there’s slightly less than a snowball’s chance in heck that this one will come out in 2015 (Goodreads status notwithstanding), but I remain *hopeful* because I just like to torture myself that way.  ONE DAY!  Hopefully soon-ish.  Le sigh.

What books are you looking forward to in 2015?
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