Stacking the Shelves #13

Now that I’ve done my Best Of list, it seems to make sense to do a final Stacking the Shelves for the year. I have to say, there seems to be something about the month of December where I get book crazy. It’s been a little less than a month since my last post, and yet I’ve managed to acquire some twenty books in that time frame! And that doesn’t count one that will arrive in January and that I think I still have 3-4 ARCs out for request on NetGalley and Edelweiss that I’m hoping to get my hands on. Yikes. Maybe I should be sliiiightly more choosy for a while? My TBR pile would thank me 🙂

For the last time in 2015, let’s do this.

ARC

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My first unsolicited ARC. I feel all grown up :* It’s pure sci-fi, which I’m looking forward to. I played in the YA end of the pool in 2015, so looking to dip my toes more in the adult end in 2016.

DRC

There’s definitely a broad assortment of books in this group. In the YA camp we have The Prophecy of Shadows (Greek mythology-inspired), Daughter of Blood (epic fantasy), Seven Black Diamonds (faery) Burning Glass (romance/fantasy), Beyond the Red (sci-fi) and Flawed (dystopian).  On the adult side we have Submissive Seductions (erotica) A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God (Greek mythology based) and Masks and Shadows (historical).  It’s a fun mix. The books here are posted in order of publication date; though it’ll take me a while to get to Daughter of Blood. It’s the the third in a trilogy and I managed to pick up the first two for $1.99 each on Kindle and will be reviewing those first. The others are all stand-alones/first in series, so there is that :*

physical books traded for by me

I picked these up in a blog sale. These are all young adult except for The Forbidden Library which is more middle grade, but Django Wexler was an enticing thought. Becoming Jinn got a lot of love when it came out and others sounded like fun (angels! steampunk!). Given the size of my TBR pile though, these are definitely going to be lower on the totem pole for when I’m looking for something different to mix it up.

eBooks bought by me

Another hodgepodge of adult and young adult. The Strange Maid is the sequel to the just-reviewed The Lost Sun. Hidden is the next Alex Verus novel. The Heir of Night/The Gathering of the Lost are the first two in the Wall of Night books. These Broken Stars is a sci-fi/romance The Rook is a fantastical thriller and Tooth and Claw is a novel of manners…with dragons.

Twenty-one books. Twenty-one. I think I need to slow down just a wee bit. LOL. So. Have you gone as crazy as I have? What have you added to your shelves?

Top 10 of 2015

Where has the year gone? It seems like yesterday that I was writing 2014’s list. Then again, isn’t that how it always goes? Anyways.

Before we get into it, once again here are the criteria I use:

1. Must have been reviewed in 2015 (so older titles qualify)

2. Only one book per author or series

3. Must have been rated as a “Buy It” by me.

Without further ado, let us begin !

Honorable Mention:

Alex Verus Series – by Benedict Jacka

I really wanted to put at least one of these books on my list as it is now one of my all-time favorite Urban Fantasy series. I debated breaking my own rules to put this on the list, but then I realized that this series is unique in that the sum is really greater than the individual parts, with each book I love it just a little bit more. These are quick easy reads with a protagonist that is much more gray than UF heroes/heroines are allowed to be with a great supporting cast including women who only grow stronger as the books pass. I know that the first book can seem derivative, but stick it out and give the series a chance. It may just grow on you the way it’s grown on me.

10.

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Read the review here

A mash-up of historical fantasy, secondary world fantasy, with a dash of science-fiction, The Philosopher Kings poses some great philosophical questions within its text that invites the reader to ponder over just as the characters do. I do think the appeal is too niche to really place it higher on this list, but for those who like philosophy or are looking for something a bit heavier, this is a book well worth checking out.

9.

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Read the review here

Yes, I know I just reviewed this the other day, and this would be the spot I was having trouble deciding what book to put here. The Lost Sun is Young Adult fantasy with Nordic flair and engrossing story of friendship and destiny and is well worth checking out.

8.

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Read the review here

A lush dark fantasy that builds up a wonderful atmosphere of tension that leaves you as unsettled as the heroine as she tries to navigate this world that she suddenly finds herself thrust into. Though not strictly Gothic horror, it has that lovely sense to it. If you like dark fae, give this book a look.

7.

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Read the review here

Urban Fantasy that has a) a completely average male as a lead, b) has no trace of the paranormal nor c) romance make this grounded tale a wonderful and unique read within the genre. If you’ve got a friend that you’re trying to lure into reading Urban Fantasy, this is an excellent series to start with.

6.

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Read the review here

The winning formula for this series is simple: take all your Urban Fantasy tropes and give them a twist. Vampires aren’t the main bad-guys, Charish mouths off and people get pissed at her. That kind of thing. A very fun ride and worth a read if you like the old favorites but want to see a hint of something new.

5.

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Read the review here

A secondary world epic fantasy that combines lush world building and one of the strongest, most sex-positive female characters I’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t read on, anyone who reads epic fantasy should give this book a look. It’s reputation is well earned. Plus, the refreshed covers are simply stunning.

4.

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Read the review here

A historical fantasy that is audacious enough to make Lucifer the hero of our tale – and does so in a manner that is absolutely respectful to the religion in the process. Any and all fantasy writers that want to take on Christianity should use this as a guide on how to do it right. I’m thrilled it’s seeing a stateside release in 2016.

3.

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Read the review here

Combining characters you love and a sense of wonder as you travel the Zodiac’s galaxy, this is a rare sequel that surpasses the original. Fans of YA and sci-fi/fantasy blends should absolutely read this.

2.

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Another piece of YA sci-fi, the complex themes and the beautiful writing make me wonder if this wouldn’t have been better served on adult shelves. Complex themes, a bittersweet ending and a delicate balanced lesbian relationship make this a must read. Oh, and Talis is everything.

1.

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Read the review here

The most audacious book I’ve quite possibly read, even taking on J for the complexity of its story telling. The best part is that there is as much substance to it as there is style. One of the rare books that absolutely deserves the hype it’s received.

~

So there we have it! I’d never guess I’d have three YA sci-fi titles as my top three this year, which makes it all the more awesome that I do. I think that niche of the genre really came alive this year and gives me hope that it’ll continue to mature and producer a richer cannon of books that stray away from the typical YA tropes. Aside from that, I don’t feel like 2015 was quite as strong a year for me as 2014 was, but as always, if you look, you will always find some gems.

So tell me, what were your favorites?

The Lost Sun (Gods of New Asgard #1) – Tessa Gratton

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Summary:

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and Holly Black’s “The Curse Workers” will embrace this richly drawn, Norse-mythology-infused alternate world: the United States of Asgard. Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood–the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy. But that’s hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That’s not all Astrid dreams of–the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.


When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they’ve been told they have to be.

Review:

At the same time I was devouring this book, I’ve been working on my Best of 2015 post. And though I’ve had most of my list for quite some time, the bottom few books were giving me trouble. While I managed to sort out most of it, I had one spot remaining where I was never quite happy with the YA fantasy title I had been putting in there. It just didn’t feel right. But then I read this book and suddenly the solution to my dilemma seems clear. Perhaps it was fated, handy, for a book about fate.

The Lost Sun is a book about fate. It is a book about embracing who you are, what your destiny is, and that the path we take to get there is never quite as we might expect it to be. While some consider the notion of Fate to be somehow unkind as it seems in theory to be inherently opposed to the idea of Free Will, this book does not take that path. If anything, this book shows us how we meet our Fate because of the choices that we are forced to make. Nothing that ultimately occurs in this novel unfairly thrust upon them. The choices – aid Astrid or do not. Aid Baldur or do not. Embrace being a Berserker or ask Odin to relieve him of this burden – are laid about before our characters, and it is through our characters choices that the future that Astrid sees comes into being. And as a reader, you eagerly follow as our hero Soren makes his decisions. It has been quite some time since I so eagerly devoured a book, longing for a moment to steal so I could read more. And that we can thank the excellent job Gratton did in developing her protagonists.

All of the main characters in this book are well developed and distinct. Soren fights what he is because he fears winding up like his father, and yet his courage and devotion to his friends remains ever true. Astrid is devout in her belief and yet her budding love for Soren is no less strong. Vidir is wild and lively, a good foil to them both.

Rounding out the good characters are the world she places them in. Familiar and unique all at once, it posits the idea of a United States that grew from the descendants of the Vikings who landed in North America centuries before the Europeans and where the Old Ways never quite died, and yet is fully modern with everything from televisions, the internet and fast food.

The author has recently re-released the books and with a newbie friendly $5 price tag, if you YA fantasy or are a fan of Norse Mythology, you owe yourself to check this series out. I know I’ve already bought the next book.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: Now

DNF – The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

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Summary:

The first adult epic fantasy novel from multi-million copy bestselling author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris.

The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods – retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

Why I Did Not Finish:

I knew this book wasn’t working for me when I first started it on June 1st and of this morning was still barely two dozen pages in. Now, to be fair, things had picked up at work and what not, but even so: there was nothing about this book that compelling me to pick it back to, to press on. Still, today I resolved to make real progress. By a third of the way through, I knew this wasn’t for me. By the half-way mark, I was done. Since I did make it further than I normally did, I contemplated posting here, then I had one critical thought which pushed me to giving this a true write up:

I realized I might not have been the right audience for this book.

My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty skin deep. I could name you a few gods, but little else. Still, the concept of the rogue of the tales telling the story sounded appealing. There are two sides to every story, right?

In hindsight, however, I think knowing is going to help your read here. This book, though told as a narrative, isn’t really a narrative. Once the book settles in, it quickly falls into a pattern. Loki mentions his current situation in Asgard (usually relating to how much of an outcast he is/isn’t at the time) followed by Loki talking about how a given event came to be, then how he used his wits to resolve the situation, followed by an update on his situation in Asgard. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a collection of stories only barely linked together by narration. To get the most out of it, I think you would benefit from knowing the other side of the tale, so you have that rounded view. As it is, Loki (naturally) comes off as the hero all the time and I think knowing the both so you can decide for yourself which version was closer to the truth (a narrator like Loki is going to be, by definition, unreliable). As it stands, Loki, the master of the humble brag doesn’t come off as terribly likable or sympathetic and I just found it hard to connect with the character, so I didn’t want to see his journey through.

Aside from a few annoying seemingly anachronistic bit (i.e. Loki saying that at a certain point people were asking for his autograph) the writing of the book is solid and Loki does have a nicely distinct voice. I do think there is a real audience out there for this book and I think they can find a lot to like. As for myself? I just couldn’t get in to it and so I had to DNF it.

On to the next.

P.S. It should go without saying that I’m no judge of how much fidelity to the original stories there is or isn’t. If that kind of thing is important to you, you may want to check out other reviews before picking this up 🙂