Once again, end of year is sneaking up. How twelve months can feel more like six is beyond me. That I don't remember much of what I did in January is utter insanity ... truth be told, lots of the year is a bit of a blur. The haze comes from a new job, early mornings, city travel and general life chaotic. But there have been some highlights, and I have made some wonderful new friends (both in cyberspace & in real life).
Funnily enough, even if I don't quite remember certain events from earlier in the year, I do remember certain books. So this is my list of the ones that stayed with me. These are the books I remembered long after the last page, the ones I kept churning over in my mind and passed on to friends. Enjoy!
'Archangel’s Consort' by Nalini Singh
I have quickly fallen in love with this series. I didn’t have much patience for the ‘Angel’ theme prevalent in much supernatural/paranormal fiction of the moment (thanks a lot, ‘Covet’!). But Nalini Singh single-handedly turned that all around with her epic love story about a human woman, Elena, and her archangel lover, Raphael. In ‘Consort’ we delved deeper into the Angel mythology and Elena even got to meet her mother-in-law. But more than anything, this third book was a concentration on Raphael and Elena’s solid relationship. I absolutely love it when authors establish a romance early on in a series – and Singh’s angels are the perfect blueprint for how to continue an established romance, as she explores the depths of their commitment and tests their love. Brilliant! I can’t wait for more Raphael/Elena goodness in 2012.
‘Unearthly’ by Cynthia Hand
I completely fell in love with this book. I went in sceptical (again, because of my loathing the now done-to-death angel storyline) but came away converted. Hand has written a relatable if ethereal protagonist in Clara, who ventures to the Wyoming backwoods to fulfil her destiny, and along the way finds herself caught between the boy of her dreams and the her best friend’s brother. A fantastic edge-of-your seat read, I was doubly excited to learn that the series has been picked up by the CW network for TV adaptation. Can I get a hallelujah?
‘Something Like Summer’ by Jay Bell
I love it when a chance-purchase turns into a keeper-shelf prized possession. That’s what happened with Jay Bell’s brilliant M/M romance, ‘Something Like Summer’. I was drawn to the loud orange front cover, and intrigued at the prospect of a YA M/M. What I got was a story of self-discovery, love and second chances spanning decades in one man’s topsy-turvy love life, when the ‘one that got away’ won’t leave him alone. Utterly charming and heartbreaking, Jay Bell’s story of young love and old cynicism was an instant-favourite.
‘Blood Challenge’ by Eileen Wilks
I’m going to make a BIG call and say that ‘Blood Challenge’ was my favourite book of 2011. And honestly, that’s a pretty surprising statement . . . considering my opinions of sixth and eighth books, ‘Blood Magic’ and ‘Death Magic’, were sullied by a serious lack of Rule and Lily goodness. ‘Blood Challenge’, continued to dance around Lily and Rule’s upcoming nuptials and their impact on werewolf society. But ‘Blood Challenge’ put Rule’s older brother (and previous secondary-character wallflower) Benedict Turner into the spotlight. Wilks filled in a lot of tragic back story for Benedict, in which he lost his unfaithful mate in a terrible car accident. When ‘Blood Challenge’ begins, Benedict finds the unfathomable . . . a second mate bond. I absolutely loved Benedict and Arjenie’s love story. They were both so well suited to one another; Arjenie was all sunshine infectious while Benedict was dark and brooding. I love them! They were absolutely adorable together and this seventh book marks my favourite in the ‘World of the Lupi’ series so far.
‘Crossed’ by J.F. Lewis
The ‘Void City’ series is easily one of my all-time favourite urban fantasies. It’s cringingly wonderful and our ‘hero’, Eric, is an awful lot of fun to read (emphasis on awful). In this third instalment, Eric gets hitched to his put-upon girlfriend and fellow vamp, Tabitha (while still having it off with her witchy sister, Rachel). In ‘Crossed’ we also got Greta’s perspective, Eric’s adopted vampire daughter who eats her emotions – in Greta we get the voice of a stone-cold killer, but in usual Lewis fashion, her creepy perspective is made funny and fascinating by his whip-quick dialogue and insightful flashbacks. This series is incredible (if, a little hard to swallow at times). I can’t wait for more hellish shenanigans from Eric & Co. in 2012!
‘Across the Universe’ by Beth Revis
I love how the intergalactic setting is trending in YA at the moment. ‘Across the Universe’ was an intense and complex YA about murder aboard a space ship, and one girl whose chronological timeline has been irrevocably altered. A really interesting finale to this first book, and I can’t wait to read what Revis has in store for Amy and the crew of Godspeed.
‘Naked Werewolf’ series by Molly Harper
I admit, I have been missing Molly Harper’s ‘Jane Jameson’ series something dreadful . . . but the wait for a new instalment was eased somewhat by her awesomely funny paranormal romance series, ‘Naked Werewolf’. Set in the Alaskan wilderness, Harper’s series focuses on a brother and sister Alpha werewolf pair whose love lives are sent into chaos by two humans who infiltrate their quiet community. Hilarity ensues (of course, because this is Molly Harper we’re talking about – the queen of funny).
‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkness
At 597-pages, this book was a daunting prospect. I’m used to my paranormal romance novels being short, sweet and in twice-yearly increments. But I knuckled down and persevered with ‘A Discovery of Witches’, and was rewarded ten-fold by Harkness’s supernatural, literary mastery. This is the story of a reluctant witch, Diana Bishop, and the vampire who is sworn to protect her when the supernatural community learn of her powers. Matthew Clairmont (a vampire geneticist, for a real change of paranormal-pace) and Diana have a slow-burning romance full of distrust, lust and mitigating circumstances. Harkness absolutely immerses you in her on-campus supernatural mystery. Yes, it’s long, but it’s also worth-while. The book ends on an interesting precipice, and now I am dying for the second novel in the ‘All Souls’ trilogy, ‘Shadow of Night’.
‘River Marked’ by Patricia Briggs
This was it – the one we’ve all been waiting for . . . Mercy & Adam’s wedding day. And folks, it was good. Bran bought a tear to my eye when he gave Mercy away (with conditions attached) and the surprise wedding was oddly befitting this favourite paranormal couple. The other big surprise of ‘River Marked’ was the appearance of Mercy’s father, in the form of Joe Coyote. I loved this book, and my appreciation was increased with the knowledge that we wouldn’t be visiting the Tri Cities for a whole year (since Briggs altered her contract to do alternative release years for ‘Alpha & Omega’ and ‘Mercy Thompson’). Admittedly some of ‘River Marked’ was a bit perplexing. Joe Coyote was a little . . . odd. There was a Native American legend about sisters who were berries living in the belly of their brother and, yeah, I got a little lost. Confusion aside, I loved ‘River Marked’.
‘The Night Creatures’ series by Marianne de Pierres
Marianne de Pierres introduced readers to the curiously wonderful world of Ixion – where escaped teenagers are encouraged to party hard, forget consequences and ‘burn bright’. But our astute protagonist, Retra, doesn’t trust the darkness and questions what happens to her fellow revellers when the party is over. The front covers are drool-worthy (by the wonderful artist Jaroslaw Kubicki) but the story is even better. Marianne de Pierres has written a fantastically creepy and intricate Dystopian fantasy, and I’m so proud that they’re Australian YA!
‘The Reluctant Nude’ by Meg Maguire
Maguire’s contemporary erotica romance was a surprise hit for me. I bought it on a whim but ended up being completely enthralled by this character-driven erotica novel about a woman trying to save her home by agreeing to give her business opponent a nude sculpture of herself. Yeah, it sounds odd and over-the-top, but the majority of Maguire’s novel takes place during the model’s sittings for a master sculptor. Their scenes are tense and claustrophobic, and lead to some insightful and challenging discussions between them. Definitely not your typical erotica tale.
‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey
I have a massive girl-crush on Ms Fey, and ‘Bossypants’ scratched a serious itch I have for her. Obviously funny, ‘Bossypants’ is also an interesting behind-the-scenes look at one of America’s most beloved and long-running television shows, Saturday Night Live. But above all else it’s a lovely ode to the femme comedian; her humble beginnings and awkward youth that all led her on a path to Hollywood. This should be appearing on everyone’s Christmas list!
‘Red Glove’ Curseworkers #2 by Holly Black
Holly Black’s paranormal YA is one of the most original and beautiful I have ever read. Her world is complex, full of cursed magic’s and talented supernatural’s who must hide their difference from regular human beings. At the centre of this series is Cassel Sharpe, a con-artist’s son whose talents have been used for dirty deeds . . . but he wants to change his wicked ways, and is taking steps to do just that. This series gets better and better, Holly Black writes thoughtful brilliance and I can’t wait for more ‘curseworkers’.
‘The Gathering’ by Kelley Armstrong
I loved Armstrong’s ‘Darkest Powers’ series, so I was thrilled to learn that while Chloe’s story had definitely come to an end, Armstrong still had more world-building to do. The first book in her new spin-off series, ‘The Gathering’ was phenomenal. This book is made all the more eerie because readers know the secret that Maya and her friends are still none-the-wiser about. I love Kelley Armstrong, and I can’t wait to read where she takes Maya and her friends.
‘Alien in the Family’ Kathering 'Kitty' Katt #3 by Gini Koch
A new ‘Katherine “Kitty” Katt’ book is always a treat, and ‘Alien in the Family’ is no different. This book had a lot of hype, touted as the wedding extravaganza of the year . . . and Ms Koch did not disappoint. A fast and frenetic new instalment in a superb intergalactic series, ‘Alien in the Family’ was a careening helter-skelter mad ride of epically awesome proportions.
‘Magic Slays’ Kate Daniels #5 by Ilona Andrews
Anyone worried that one of the best will-they-or-won’t-they couples would be tamed by marriage had their concerns laid to rest with this fifth installment. Marriage hasn’t dulled Kate and Curran’s romance, if anything they’ve become more protective and territorial about one another. The plot thickens with the Kate and Roland storyline, with all signs pointing to one hell of a showdown coming up. I wish that Raphael had made an appearance, but I'd say Ilona Andrews are gearing up for an amazing Andrea spin-off that will focus on this beloved secondary couple.
And Rachel Caine does it again. Writing two new and completely addictive installments in her beloved ‘Morganville Vampires’ series. ‘Bite Club’ was an interesting book, for including a total character transformation of everyone’s beloved Shane. And as if that wasn’t enough, ‘Last Breath’ offered a totally new layout for the book – including additional character perspectives beyond Claire’s usual third-person narration. I kind of love where Caine is taking this series, expanding the world and fleshing out characters we’ve come to know and love. I’m not 100% certain of the reasoning behind the switch from third-person to first-person and additional POV’s, but I trust Caine completely and will follow her to the ends of Morganville and beyond!
‘Kiss of Snow’ Psy-Changeling #10 by Nalini Singh
This is the one fan’s have been waiting for – the forbidden unrequited romance between Sienna and Hawke. Singh had a lot of expectation riding on this pair . . . and she delivered, completely and utterly. Hawke and Sienna have been walking on eggshells and avoiding the inevitable for a long time, so the final culmination of their heated yearning was as explosive and sexy as we all hoped. Phew. I don’t quite know how the Psy-Changeling series can go on, now that the most awaited-coupling have come and gone, but I’m interested to read what Singh has in store for us.
‘Die for Me’ by Amy Plum
Amy Plum’s first book in a new paranormal YA series was wonderful and wholly unique. ‘Revenants’ is set in the city of love, Paris, and concerns an entirely new supernatural race. The love story between Kate and mysterious Vincent is conventional of the genre in many ways, but with refreshing tongue-in-cheek observations concerning the usual hero ‘stalker’ tendencies . . . except in ‘Die For Me’ the old love at first sight adage is turned on its head and made creepily fateful. A wonderful debut and addictive new series.
‘Dragon Bound’ by Thea Harrison
Woah. I loved this book. I read it on a whim, in the mood for a new paranormal romance and taken by the idea of a dragon hero (with no vampires or werewolves). But I came away with a bit of a fever, enraptured by Harrison’s hero, Dragos, and his hilarious pursuit of human thief, Pia. So I was a bit upset that second book, ‘Storm’s Heat’, remains a DNF for me. I just couldn’t get into it, and after I built up such high hopes with ‘Dragon Bound’. Oh well, Dragos still has a firm place in my paranormal favourite’s list.
‘A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man’ by Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan
I know that the Kate Daniels series works phenomenally well with a writing-duo, but I never suspected that a romance novel written by two people could be so wonderful. A combination historical/contemporary romance, the story follows two very different women on their romantic turmoils across time. I adored this novel, and I do hope Bradley/Donovan try to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time and join forces for another book – because that would be an automatic-buy for me.
‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth
I loves me a good Dystopia, and ‘Divergent’ is a damn good YA dystopian. In a world where people are sorted according to their strengths, one girl cannot be categorized and must keep her secret or lose her freedom. This is a thought-provoking dystopian, mainly because the world is initially presented to us as one that works well – people living harmoniously with their like-minded brethren. But slowly the world disintegrates, trust diminishes and everyone is out for themselves. I did think the storyline was a little slow-going initially, but I loved the complicated world and I can’t wait to revisit it in 2012.
'Tender Mercies' by Kitty Thomas
Kitty Thomas writes dark chocolate erotica. Her novels are deep character explorations as well as scintillating adventures. 'Tender Mercies' is more mind-bending sexiness from the current queen of the genre. Brilliant and decadent.
‘The Comet Box’ by Adrian Stirling
This was such a beautiful slice of secret suburbia. This is the story of a young boy’s search for the truth despite the consequences to his family. Stirling’s writing is captivating and unassuming, until he punches you in the gut with his plot revelations and character explosions. A beautiful Aussie young adult read.
‘All I Ever Wanted’ by Vikki Wakefield
This is one of the best Aussie YA novels I have ever read, ever. Mim is a girl with big dreams and itchy fit, hampered by her family’s criminal lifestyle and her town’s drudgery. I loved this fearless and beautiful book, about finding your place in the world but never forgetting where you came from. Amazing must-read.
'Winter's Shadow' by M.J. Hearle
Gothic and compelling, the first book in Hearle's new paranormal YA series was brilliant. I'm quite proud that it's another notable Australian young adult novel in a genre that's normally overrun with American additions. Even better, there's not a vampire or werewolf in sight. Love it, and I can't wait for 'Winter's Light'
‘Forgotten’ by Cat Patrick
This was an amazing young adult book, with just a hint of magic and a lot of amnesia. A girl who can remember tomorrow but forgets today, ‘Forgotten’ tells her love story with a boy she desperately wants to fall in love with . . . if only she can remember why. A complicated premise, made simple and beautiful by compelling characters and a family secret.
‘Fallen’ George #3 by Karin Slaughter
Slaughter’s is the only crime series I follow religiously, because it’s so damn good. Slaughter doesn’t write crime procedurals – she writes intense and damaged characters who happen to work in law enforcement. ‘Fallen’ is the novel I have been waiting for, the one in which beloved Sara Linton, ex-coroner, gets new happiness with agent Will Trent. And it is good. Complicated, by the kidnapping of an infamous female ex-cop and Will’s crazy ex-wife, but still magnificent. Now things are really heating up and getting interesting, and I am salivating for the next book!
‘Hunting Lila’ by Sarah Alderson
This paranormal YA blew me away! I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started reading, but I ended up powering through the book in one night and then going back and re-reading to soak in the brilliance once again. This book is like ‘X-Men’ and ‘Heroes’, about a group of talented supernatural’s and the government task-force who want to hunt them down. Our protagonist is caught in familial crosshairs and unrequited love. I cannot wait for the second book in this series, and fully intend to read anything that Alderson writes from here on in.
‘Days Like This’ by Alison Stewart
I loved this book, not least because Stewart put Australia on the Dystopia map! In this riveting and frightening book, Sydney has become a walled city, akin to Cold War Berlin. Youth is currency and adults are the enemy. Stewart is writing fragments of horrible history – the book’s dystopia has echoes of Russian KGB and Hitler’s SS, and is heavily influenced by the author’s South African roots, and the sadness of apartheid. A history lesson, action adventure with teen characters to make your chest swell with youthful pride. Brilliant!
‘The Many Sins of Lord Cameron’ Highland Pleasures #3 by Jennifer Ashley
Admittedly, I am hanging out for Hart’s story in this series. I didn’t really enjoy Mac’s book, and I wasn’t having high hopes for Cameron’s . . . but I was delightedly blown away. His romance with lady-in-waiting, Ainsley Douglas, has been years in the making – but is hampered by Cameron’s dark past and awful first marriage. My heart broke for Cameron, but his reluctant love for Ainsley is tender and sweet. I’m still convinced that Hart is the Mackenzie for me, but Cameron’s story was lovely.
‘You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead’ by Marieke Hardy
I adored this book; everything from Hardy’s audacious recounting of a dud swingers party to her poignant remembrance of a dead football team. She writes with frenzied brilliance and utter hilariousness, and I wanted to gobble up her words and let them dissolve on my tongue. So many lines bought me to my knees, but this one most of all: ‘I could weep with such fondness for us all.’
'Daughter of Smoke & Bone' by Laini Taylor
Seriously, no other author need ever write about angels and demons ever again because Taylor's book is the definitive. Utter perfection and mystification, I am in love with this book and in awe of this author.
‘Glow’ Sky Chasers #1 by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Another Dystopian, this time set in outer-space. This was a really interesting novel – split between two space-ships; one full of kidnapped girls and religious zealots, the other with dying adults and the young men who intend to save their friends. A complex and thought-provoking novel, I’ll definitely be reading more ‘Sky Chasers’ in the future.
‘Scandalous Desires’ Maiden Lane #3 by Elizabeth Hoyt
Move over Jack Sparrow, Mickey O’Connor is the new pirate in town. Hoyt’s ‘Maiden Lane’ is one of the best historical romance series I have ever read, and ever since we first met him back in book one, I knew Mickey would be a charmer. But I wasn’t prepared for the level of adoration for sweet, charming Mickey and the heart-palpitating romance between him and innocent Silence Hollingbrook. This series gets better and better, Hoyt can write no wrong and the Ghost of St. Giles promises to be an interesting fourth book focus!
‘Froi of the Exiles’ Lumatere Chronicles #2 by Melina Marchetta
It felt like such a long time between books, since fans last walked home with Finnikin and Isaboe, back in 2008. It’s a wonderful relief to fall back into Lumatere, this time with the violent street urchin, Froi, as our protagonist who ventures to the crazy kingdom of Charyn to pretend coupling with the mad princess, Quintana. I loved reading about how the world of Lumatere has grown, with Finnikin and Isaboe now parents. The side-story about Charyn refugees and the hostility they receive was a very telling reflection of the ‘boat people’ topic in Australia, and Marchetta writes their plight with infinite tenderness and understanding. I especially adored the continued romantic turmoil of Trevanion and Lady Beatriss. I love these two, my heart breaks for their sadness but Marchetta is also queen of romance, and there is hope on the horizon. I have missed this series, and I can’t wait to read more in 2012.
‘Animal People’ by Charlotte Wood
This has been one of the most talked-about Australian novels of 2011, and for damn good reason. A real literary gem, ‘Animal People’ is the day in the life of a man struggling with the pressures of family and responsibility, counting down to the end of his relationship with the woman he loves, his city becomes claustrophobic and maddening. Beautiful and hypnotic, Wood writes pin-point accuracies of city life and human foibles. Stunning, absolutely stunning.
‘Crossed’ by Ally Condie
After the brilliance of ‘Matched’, Condie had a lot to live up to with her second novel. Happily, ‘Crossed’ lives up to expectation, and in this book readers are witness to the grassroots of an uprising. A mysterious ‘Pilot’ is rumoured to be leading a rebellion, and we are left wondering who this mysterious comrade will be. This world keeps getting better and better, I can’t wait to read where Condie takes us next.
‘Legend’ by Marie Lu
In a market overrun with YA Dystopia’s, ‘Legend’ stands out for being one of the best and most original. We have two protagonists in June and Day – one who is a republic protégée and the other a public dissident. Things get interesting when these two cross paths, their world irrevocably changed. I want to see ‘Legend’ on the big-screen and I can’t wait to read more installments in this sure to be classic series.
‘Alien Proliferation’ Katherine ‘Kitty’ Katt #4 by Gini Koch
As if ‘Alien in the Family’ wasn’t cool enough, ‘Alien Proliferation’ continues the awesome adventures of Kitty & Co. In this fourth installment Kitty is heavily pregnant and hating every second of it, but a knocking at the door signals trouble and as usual the Armani Army are at the front lines. This novel freaking rocked! Pregnant Kitty is hilarious, Chuckie and Martini are still locked in a battle of wills and Christopher gets some tender loving . . . epic levels of awesome ensue!