Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Reading In Review

I took some time off this year but still ended up reading a good amount of books. I think my initial goal was to read 50 books, somehow that jumped to 70 (extremely wishful thinking). I ended up reading about 40 and and reviewing 31 of those. Not bad.

My top 10 reads for this year, in no particular order, are:

*2009 Release

1. Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham* (Historcal Fiction)
2. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (Women's Fiction)
3. The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis (Historical Fiction)
4. The Sharing Knife (Passage) by Lois McMaster Bujold (Fantasy Romance)
5. Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas* (Contemporary Romance)
6. The King Making by Helen Hollick* (Historical Fiction)
7. Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh* (Urban Fantasy)
8. The Tailor's Daughter by Janice Graham (Historical Fiction)
9. The Gathering Blue by Lois Lowery (Young Adult)
10. Highland Rebel by Judith James* (Historical Romance)

A good mix of genres, but no mysteries made it in the top 10. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn and Heartsick by Chelsea Cain came close though.

The total list of books I reviewed in 2009:

1: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh (Grade C+) Paranormal Romance
2: Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas (Grade A) Contemporary Romance
3: Sea Fever by Virginia Kantra (Crade C-) Paranormal Romance
4: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (Grade B-) Young Adult
5: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas* Contemporary Romance
6: The McKettrick Way by Linda Lael Miller (Grade C+) Contemporary Romance
7: HeartSick by Chelsea Cain (Grade B-) Mystery
8: The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll (Grade A+) Paranormal Romance
9: Hot Mail by Janice Maynard (Grade B)* Erotic Romance
10: The KingMaking by Helen Hollick (Grade A+) Historical Fiction
11: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Grade B+) Young Adult
12: Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh (Grade A-)* Urban Fantasy
13: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole (Grade A) Paranormal Romance
14: Sea Lord by Virginia Kantra (Grade B)* Paranormal Romance
15: The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold (Grade A) Fantasy Romance
16: Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (Grade B+) Urban Fantasy
17: The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis (Grade A) Historical Fiction
18: Garden Spells by Sara Addison Allen (Grade A) Women's Fiction
19: Ain't She Sweet? By Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Grade B) Contemporary Romance
20: To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (Grade B)* Historical Romance
21: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier (Grade A) Historical Fiction, Suspense
22: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley (Grade B) Historical Romance
23: Dhamphir by Barb & J. C. Hendee (Grade A-) Fantasy
24: Rewriting Monday by Jodi Thomas (Grade B) Contemporary Romance
25: Once Bitten by Kaylana Price (Grade C)* Urban Fantasy
26: Love at First Flight by Marie Force (Grade B)* Contemporary Romance
27: Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn (Grade B-)* Mystery, Historical
28: Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham (Grade A)* Historical Fiction
29: Highland Rebel by Judith James (Grade A)* Historical Romance
30: Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews (Grade B) Urban Fantasy
31: When a Stranger Loves Me by Julianne MacLean (Grade C) Historical Romance

My goal for next year is to not set one. Going into 2009, I couldn't have predicted that I'd end up taking close to four months off, so to keep myself from not reaching a specific goal for whatever unforeseen reasons, I'm not making myself any promises.

My hopes for the 2010 reading year are to read a good amount of 2010 releases, to increase the amount of YA that I read, and to make a sizeable dent in my tbr pile. If I accomplish any of those things I'll be happy.

So, how did you make out this year? Did you meet your reading goal, exceed it? Did you have any standout reads or authors? Share!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Musings on Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

I skipped the first book in Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series for no particular reason other than I mistakenly thought that Magic Burns was the introductory book to the series. By the time I realized that I was wrong, I was so deep into the story and wanted to know how it ended that I didn't bother with putting it down in favor of Magic Bites, which really is the first book in the series.

The story opens during a magic wave. Kate is called upon by the Pack (shape-shifters) to retrieve their stolen maps from a cunning bowman. Not one to pass up a challenge, Kate takes the gig and sets out after the sniper. She runs into a teenage street urchin she's familiar with, Red, and his tween girlfriend, Julie, whose mother has gone missing.

Kate's run-in with the teenagers ends up leading her into the Honeycomb, a section of the city that is a dangerous maze of twisted trailers, unfriendly people, and magic. She soon finds that a misfit group of witches have tampered with the natural order of things in a big way. Now the salvation of the Atlanta depends on Kate and her eclectic band of shifter, vampire, and sniper friends. They'll have to come together to restore magical order and take down a restless god that's intent on killing them all.

I'd been in a reading slump when I started Magic Burns and credit this book in helping me to come out of it. There's lots of action, character development, and nicely done world building. Got to say, as an Atlanta native, I love that the story is set in my city. It's fun envisioning the city I was born and raised in complete magic upheaval.

Even though I started on the second book before reading the first, I never felt like my reading enjoyment suffered from loss of back story as previous events were neatly explained throughout the book. I'll find out if I'm completely right about that soon enough, when I go back to read Magic Bites. But before that I'm moving on to Magic Strikes because I'm anxious to know exactly what happens next in the series. Grade B.

Visit Ilona Andrews here. Read an excerpt of Magic Burns here.