I’m not a fast reader these days, so I only get through between 25 and 30 books a year. I have a to-read bookcase of about 120 books which never seems to diminish, thanks to those few writers whose next book I always have to buy, my publisher giving me books, friends giving me their ms to read, buying books at signings, buying the books of authors I’ve met, Paul adding books he’s read that he thinks I’ll like, and books I acquire for research. (None of which I mind).
When choosing what to read, if not for research or to support friends, I aim to try a wide range of books. I like a mix of old and new. I like to read around and beyond the fringes of fantasy. I like both fast-paced writing and richly-told tales. This year I’ve certainly covered all those bases. Here are ten of the books that I enjoyed:
Rogue Gadda, by Nicole Murphy
A great ending to a wonderful trilogy. Nicole writes sexy paranormal romance set in the modern world, but not the usual vampire/werewolf/whatever scenario. Hers contains a secret race of Celtic magic-users, and since magic is my favourite fantasy trope I really like that take on the genre.
Bite Me, by Christopher Moore
Though this is the fourth book about these characters, you can probably pick them up at any point. I’d describe them as a hilarious take on vampires trying to get on in the modern world. I guess technically they’re urban fantasy containing vampires and a romance, but the tone is closer to the film Mall Rats. And unlike many humorous series, they don’t get less funny with each book.
Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot
It’s been a while since a scene in a book made me exclaim out loud, but that scene where the cold mage first turns up and all the lamps start going out, and what follows … I won’t spoil it, but simply say I ripped through this book faster than I have any larger sized fantasy for quite some years. Kate is writing some of the best fantasy around right now.
Casting Spells, by Barbara Bretton
This was my first taste of fantasy knit lit. Yes, that is a thing. This one, and the following Laced with Magic, qualify as paranormal romance since they are set in the modern day, contain supernatural creatures/peoples and the story revolves around a romance. You don’t have to be a knitter at all to enjoy it, but if you are the jokes and references are a nice addition. (What? Knitting IS funny. Trust me.)
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan
Playing catch-up here. I’ve had this book in my to-read bookcase for a while. A marvellous story that goes to both bright and fanciful places as well as very dark ones. To use a term from the internet, something bad happens to a character that may be ‘triggery’, and the effect it has many years later is, well, I’d describe it as ‘uncomfortably satisfying’. But I love a book with such depth of emotion, and I have Margo’s Sea Hearts high on my list of books to read.
Timeless, by Gail Carriger
An excellent conclusion to the humorous, romantic, paranormalish, steampunk fantasy series. Alexia’s daughter is a wonderfully amusing addition to the extended family. I’m pleased to see there are many more books to come from this author.
Colour, by Victoria Finlay
Part travel literature, part history, this book traces some of the most romantic pigments used before the invention of chemical colours. Fascinating. Research should always be this much fun.
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
Paul recommended this to me as an example of urban fantasy before the term stopped being what books by Charles deLint were called. Wonderfully written. The vampires are properly scary, the threat to the character and world truly worrying. The world is an alternate version of this one, kind of an alternate urban fantasy scenario. Also, there’s a lot of baking, so don’t read it when you’re hungry.
The Gift, by Alison Croggon
Another catch up read, and a pleasant surprise because the writing is actually the closest I’ve found to the feel of Lord of the Rings. I’ve read many that are closer in terms of plot and characters, but all written as if conscious of keeping the attention of, say, fourteen-year-old boys. That’s not to say that The Gift is a difficult read, but I wanted to slow down and appreciate each portion of the character’s journey and the world that was unfolding. I have the rest of the quartet, and look forward to savouring them all.
Winter Be My Shield, by Jo Spurrier
I actually acquired this book free twice. The first time in a con bag, and I confess gave it away because I was being ruthless about not adding to my to-read pile. When Paul got another copy as a freebie with a purchase at Supanova I cursed because I was only travelling with carry-on luggage. But I hate not giving a book a chance, so I decided to read the first chapter and if it didn’t grab me I’d give it away again. Well, obviously the first chapter did grab me. And it didn’t let go. Now I’m cursing because I’ve gone and started another series before the next book is out. Bring on book two!