It’s always fun to see what other people are reading and enjoying. April, who is part dragon, is an avid reader. Until she got her Kindle she used to cart around the back of cereal boxes for emergency reading. In short, she reads almost anything! She has at least one book on this list that she rated 5 stars–and I rated it ONE. How’s that for “different strokes for different folks?” She also re-read and gave five stars to the first three books in Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂
So without further ado, here are April’s favorite 5 star reads so far this year (In the spirit of buddy reviews, I commented on those books I have also read. Feel free to add your opinion in the comments):
Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3) Aaronovitch, Ben – This is the third in the series, the first is Midnight Riot and they are urban fantasy set in London. The main character is a cop and finds out that magic is possible when he realizes that he has just tried to get a witness statement from a ghost. I like this one because the character’s sarcasm is terribly funny but he is also very sweet, intelligent and normal sounding. I also love that he follows police procedure even when dealing with monsters and demons and ghosts. That part also brings up quite a few funny scenes. How DO you document demons and ghosts for the authorities?
(Maria’s notes: I’d describe this as the British mystery gone urban fantasy. It has many cozy elements via the characters, but is more a general mystery than a cozy. Throw in a ghost and a few murders and you’ve got a good story going.)
Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5) Carriger, Gail – the fifth in the Parasol Protectorate, the first being Soulless. I like this one because it is silly and serious and funny and romantic. It is considered steampunk because of the atmosphere of the Victorian period, the scientific sensibilities of some of the characters and the inclusion of vampires and werewolves.
(Maria’s notes: The first is more your typical romance and suffers from some of those cliches, but manages to almost pull off the mystery side of things without a hitch.)
Factotum (The Foundling’s Tale, Part Three) Cornish, D.M. – The first book in this series, The Foundling, surprised me. I had put it on my ‘to read’ list because of the synopsis but when I saw the cover, with a giant monster on it, I was worried. It is actually a very interesting and fun YA story about a kid who lives in an orphanage but who is shipped off to become an apprentice. He ends up not where he is supposed to be as he is traveling alone and gets caught up in some dodgy dealings and has adventures and meets interesting characters. A very unique world where certain people augment their abilities via implants and potions so they can go out and hunt monsters. Sweet, scary and a definite page turner.
Unicorn on Speed Dial Cottrell, Jeanette – As far as I know this is a stand alone book. No series. I wish there were more though. I love the sincere kindness of the main character and her family and I adore how her family relates to each other. Lots of fun around a serious plot. Mom has to save the world, her children, their home and many animals from evil and greedy people.
(Maria’s notes: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s a must-read for cozy readers and fantasy readers. It is soccer mom with unusual pets–and more than just the usual fantasy adventure!)
Maybe This Time Crusie, Jennifer – another stand alone, this one is both a romance and a ghost story. At times creepy and scary, it is still full of humor and sweet romance.
An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7) Gabaldon, Diana – Book number 7 of an unfinished series. Each book is around 800 pages. Some people are scared off by books so large but I love them. In any case, the best description of this series I’ve ever heard is the one the author quotes on her website and it is from Salon.com: “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” Each book can be read on its own as a stand alone (she designed them that way) but they are much better enjoyed in order as a series to get the full effect.
(Maria’s notes: You couldn’t pay me to read an 800 page book.)
Three Men in a Boat Jerome, Jerome K. – (Maria’s Note: This was free when I posted this; check price!) I had this on my ‘to read’ list for a while because after reading (and loving) Connie Willis’ ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ I heard that Jerome’s book was part of the spark for that story. The first chapter had me howling with laughter. But, be warned, this is a period piece about a time very different from ours with different ways of speech and thinking. I actually skimmed much of it because it got to be too much of the same thing but if a book makes me howl with laughter, it automatically gets good marks.
My Most Excellent Year Kluger, Steve – This is a quiet story about three high school friends and one year when things happened to change their lives. Lots of humor and baseball facts.
The Fire Rose (Elemental Masters, #1) Lackey, Mercedes – I call this one historical urban fantasy because it is a story about elemental magic and its practitioners but has an urban setting where the world isn’t fully aware of the magic they don’t see all around them. It isn’t a rollicking, butt-kicking urban fantasy but there is action. Set in old San Francisco, the sensibilities of the characters are very different from today. It also has a touch of romance. One of my favorite parts is that the main character, a woman, is passionate about learning and at one point, when given carte blanche at a bookstore, nearly chortles with glee. I can definitely relate!
(Maria’s Notes: I think I read this one ages ago. The cover remains one of my all-time favorites. It captures everything I love about a good fantasy–perhaps more importantly it captures my imagination! Cover art by: Darrel K. Sweet) The Kindle version of this book can only be purchased direct from Baen.
Tin Swift (Age of Steam, #2) Monk, Devon – While there is quite a bit of death and many zombies to be destroyed, at heart it is an adventure romance. But, while that romance is sweet, it is an underlying portion of the story and the main plot deals with trying to get a magic weapon out of the hands of an evil thing. This one is also steampunk, set in America but with magic, werewolves, zombies, innumerable gadgets and airships. The evil thing is very evil. Monk might want to start writing horror stories, she seems to have the knack. Gave me the creepies.
The Rook O’Malley, Daniel – Another one that was very different than I expected. But it was very, very good. The main character has no memory and yet she works in the heart of a secret organization that helps keep those things that go bump in the night out of sight and away from humans. She doesn’t know who to trust or from where the next attempt on her life will come. Full of action and interesting characters, set in modern London with the addition of vampires and demons and augmented genetics.
Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) Pierce, Tamora – Third in a series, the first is Terrier. Beka Cooper is what we’d call a cop but in a fantasy world with a monarchial society. She has a cat with purple eyes who may be more than he seems, especially since he can talk. I like this one because Beka is such a good character. She is someone I’d trust and who I could really like if I met her in real life. Sort of a fantasy mystery with touches of magic.
(Maria’s notes: This broke a cardinal rule for me in changing a character that we knew and knew well to suit the story and fulfill the plot. People do change in real life, but in books, when you break a character, it’s cheating. Worse, I don’t believe it was done particularly skillfully in this story, so by the end, it wasn’t believable for me.)
Grave Witch (Alex Craft, #1) Price, Kalayna – Urban fantasy, first in the series. Good character with an interesting world. She helps people settle family business or solve crimes by speaking to the shades of the dead. She did tend to miss too many meals though.
(Maria’s notes: The woman needs to eat! This is a good start to an urban fantasy. I enjoyed the characters. There’s some unique ones and I like that they are complex and well-drawn.)
The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1) Riordan, Rick – I listened to this one on audiobook. The first in a series of two books (I don’t know whether there are more planned yet), about two kids, a brother and sister, who are descendents of Egyptian gods. Because of this, they are able to harness the magic of those gods and thus are feared by all other magicians in the world.
Dragons of Wendal Schneider, Maria E. – You guys know this one already. Stand alone – though we all hope for more. Good characters, dragons and gryphons, magic, romance..what’s not to love??
(Maria’s notes: I’ve heard of this one.) 🙂
All the Paths of Shadow Tuttle, Frank – You’ve heard Maria crow about this one too. Very good steampunk cozy fantasy. It isn’t technically steampunk but has many of the sensibilities (don’t tell Maria, she doesn’t like steampunk!) like innovative, one of a kind gadgets created by people tinkering in their basements. Or magicians. Them too. Anyway, a fun and funny fantasy story about Meralda who’s job is currently to do the impossible to please the king. Of course, she doesn’t count on spies and the ghosts of old magicians making trouble for her either.
(Maria’s notes: Y’all have heard enough from me on this one! Steampunk??? Who knew???)
The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Pink Carnation, #7) Willig, Lauren – This is straight regency romance and part of a series though all can be read as stand alones since they each deal with different characters. I liked this one because the main character is sensible, smart and realistic. The hero is also a riot. Not anything like you’d expect a romantic hero to be. Lots of laughs, French plots against the British, society plots and schoolgirls getting up to lots of mischief.
(Maria’s notes: This one has caught my attention. Sensible, smart and realistic? I must check it out.)
Maria here again–Big Thank You to April for compiling this magnificent list. What an accomplishment–this is only her FIVE star reads. Just imagine the rest of the list!!!
Y’all comment and let us know what your top reads are so far this year. Okay, you may not have time to list them all–how about just the best read of the year so far??? Inquiring readers want to know!!!