I remember making my own set of best-of lists for last year, but this year I don’t have that same gimmick, so I’ll ride on other bloggers’ gimmicks instead. Ha. Here’s my first post for the Faves of Twenty Eleven hosted by Nomes of inkcrush! :)
I got a bunch of books a few weeks ago, but I was too lazy to make an IMM post. I was at home, but I was just plain lazy — sorry about that. :) I got some pretty awesome stuff the past weeks, some of them free, so I figure it’s time to write one. But better late than never, right? :)
Last Friday, Blooey invited some local book bloggers for a dinner with some people from Scholastic. It was such a fun night eating and talking about books and blogs and travel and everything else in between. :) It was also the first time I had dinner with publishers and received books for review too! Yay free books (almost as exciting as cool grad gifts). :D
The fun thing is, not all book packages were the same. While I think all of us got all the Icemark books, everyone else got different stuff, depending on what we’ve read. Case in point: Chachic and Tarie got Linger because they’ve already read Shiver, while Aaron didn’t get any of Stiefvater’s books because they’re not his type. Thanks again to Blooey for inviting us and to Joyce and Roselle from Scholastic for the dinner and the books. :)
And that’s all for the past weeks’ haul. I have another book buying fast happening now to prepare myself for my big trip this August, so no additions to my TBR unless they’re gifts. Not to worry, anyway since I still have a very big reading mountain to conquer. :D I’ll be back tomorrow for my mid-year recap, so for the meantime, do share in the comment section what you got this week. :)
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 308
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked
Plagued by a war between magic and technology, Atlanta has never been so deadly. Good thing Kate Daniels is on the job.
Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but she’s still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be—now that the Order is disparaging her good name, and many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate’s mate.
So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. Turns out this is not an isolated incident, and Kate needs to get to the bottom of it—fast, or the city and everyone dear to her might pay the ultimate price . . .
* * *
We experienced heavy rains last weekend, which got me stuck at home with no Internet to boot. Having no Internet is not fun, but my annoyance was alleviated with the fact that I had good books waiting for me on my shelf. So, instead of being frustrated at our non connection, I decided to sink back on the cold, cold sheets, and plunge into the world of Ilona Andrews in the fifth installment in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Slays.
Spoiler warning: Inevitable spoilers for the first four books in the series in this review.
In Magic Slays, Kate is no longer working for the Order and she is also no longer living in her old apartment. After a particularly big fight with her seemingly immortal now dead Aunt Erra, she has not only quit the Order, but started her own independent paranormal clean-up business, Cutting Edge. But wait, there’s more! She has no house to speak of because she now lives in the Pack’s Keep, because she’s mated to the Pack’s alpha, Beast Lord Curran. After all the tension in the past four books, Kate and Curran had finally admitted their feelings to one another. Even so, Kate still insists on doing things on her own, worried that her past would catch up with her and kill everyone she loves. However, business for Cutting Edge is kind of bad, until the People asks Kate for help to secure a loose vampire. Things go south quickly and soon Kate is faced with a more serious mission that could wipe away the magic community of Atlanta in a snap.
It’s been almost a year since I last read Magic Bleeds, and I was kind of worried that I would be a bit lost when I started reading the newest book. I considered rereading the fourth for a while, but sheer laziness told me I can just try to Google if I can’t remember. (Then I remembered I had no Internet after that, haha) But I was glad that it didn’t take me long to sink back into Kate’s world. The magical Atlanta is still as vivid as ever, and I felt like I never left at all. The characters were quite easy to remember, too, and I was very glad to see so many familiar faces again — Dr. Doolittle, Julie, Aunt B, Derek, Andrea and Grendel the attack poodle! I loved how every character had their role, and they all fit neatly into the world that the authors built.
I also really liked how the authors really do their mythology research in every book in this series. I was one of those people who concentrated on Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger, so discovering other myths is always a treat. I liked the Russian element in this story, and it’s worth to mention that despite the gloom and doom prediction of the story, they always manage to insert crazy funny things, such as the volhvs and the witches. That truly cracked me up. More magical communities were brought in the story, too, and it made for an awesome (albeit short) showdown at the end. See, this is how you bring in the troops to fight a common enemy — you build it up really good and end with with an actual fight, not just a conversation and the main character casting an unbreakable shield around everyone (yes, Breaking Dawn, I’m looking at you).
Kate and Curran’s relationship were also nicely done here, and I really like how the authors treat it. It’s never going to be always rainbows and butterflies for both of them, but their relationship is very fun to read because it’s grounded. It’s healthy, despite it being a bit violent, and it never really takes center stage so much that it becomes the main point of the story. It’s just there, and it’s a part of Kate and it gives so much to her character development.
The book’s conclusion is also nicely done, and I am truly, truly excited for the next book. Kate’s past life is slowly unraveling, and I can’t help but wonder what she will do next in order to fulfill the “mission” she has grown up believing in. Magic Slays is a solid installment in this already awesome series. I never expected anything less, really, and I bet it can only go better from here.
On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
The Edge # 1
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 309
My copy: paperback, won from Dee’s 100+ follower giveaway
The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.
The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.
* * *
I pretty much became a squealing fan of Ilona Andrews after I finished the first four books of their Kate Daniels series. Who wouldn’t? By the time I finished the fourth book, there was a long lull before the fifth book comes out but I wanted more Ilona Andrews. Good thing they also had another series going set in an entirely different world and I won the first two books of that series in a giveaway, so I had more Ilona Andrews in stock. Of course, I took my own sweet time before reading it…but that’s really expected of me.
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the land between the magical Weird and the normal Broken. She lives and is fiercely protective with her two younger brothers, necromancer Georgie and changeling Jack. Rose is somewhat of a social pariah among the Edge because of her unusual power: the ability to flash white, something that no Edger has ever done. This has made her a target for bluebloods from the Weird, if not as a wife to produce white-flashing powerful babies, but for slave merchants to sell to the highest bid. It’s no surprise that Rose is closed off to anyone, and it doesn’t help that her family is also very poor that she can’t afford many of the luxuries in life, including motor home repair. Rose works in the Broken everyday to make ends meet, so she’s very determined to keep her routine and live her life inconspicuously. Then comes Declan Camarine, an Earl from the Weird, who is intent at having her. Rose is not about to let anyone get her and leave her brothers behind. When weird things start showing up in the Edge and threatens everyone she knows, she had to team up with Declan to find a way to destroy it and keep the Edge safe.
On the Edge is very different from the Kate Daniels series. It’s more romance than urban fantasy, but the world is grittier and somewhat more primitive than what Kate lives in. By primitive, I don’t mean it’s less powerful, but just different. Most of the magic discussed in this book was elemental, back to the basics, unlike in Kate where there is more of the weird and seemingly more complex magic all around. Not that I know much, of course, but this one had a different feel from the other, which I kind of had to get used to first before I fully immersed.
But as always, the world building in this book is flawless. That’s one of the many things I admire with Ilona Andrews novels — the world seemed so real with all its quirks and intricate rules and details. Even if everything is highly unbelievable, I couldn’t help but accept that what was written in the book was real, and that the world is divided in three. This alone could make the book a pleasure to read already, and I think that’s really want I’m looking for in fantasy novels: good world building. I know I can’t write a good fantasy world (not yet, anyway), so I’ll stick to reading them instead.
And like with Kate, Rose is also as fierce as her. I liked Rose because of her strong attachment to her family. Sometimes she gets too attached, but as the story went on, she grew to understand that she can’t baby her brothers all the time. Rose is strong and admirable, and it makes one understand why Declan would like her. I like Declan too, but I did get kind of annoyed at how many times he was described as “perfect” in the book. Too many mentions of his well-defined muscles, glittery eyes and skin is a bit too much. My favorite characters in the book, however, are Jack and Georgie — gotta love those two boys. They captured my heart from the start. I also liked Declan’s family, but too bad they didn’t have much exposure time.
Since this is more of a romance novel, there was more focus on the relationship than in the action in the book, so the climax part was kind of expected. I wasn’t as invested in Rose and Declan’s relationship as I was in Kate and Curran, but the latter had more build up than this one, so I guess that’s a normal reaction. I guess the key here is to really stop comparing from the other series because they fall on sort of different sub-genres.
On the Edge is a good, fun and sizzling (yes, I actually used that term) fantasy/romance novel from Ilona Andrews, and it’s a good read whether you’re new to them or you’re a fan. While I’m not about to declare my love for this series yet, I am looking forward to read the other books about The Edge. :)
And here is the final 10 for 2010 list for this year, and the hardest one at that. There has just been too many good books in this year that it’s so hard to pick just ten. But I have to choose ten…but that doesn’t mean I can’t have runner ups and honorable mentions. ;) It’s my list, I can do anything I want to. :P
So, the last 10 for 2010, here are 10 of my Favorite Reads in no particular order…and then some. :)
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen – How much do I love this book? I am very glad that I chose this book as my first classic read for this year. I love Anne Elliot, and I want to be her. I don’t have much point of comparison over other Austen books, but this one is really, really good, even better than P&P. :) I cannot recommend this one enough. :)
2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews – I fell in love with the Kate Daniels series this year (thanks again to Chachic and Michelle for pushing!), but among the four books out in the series, Magic Strikes is the best one so far. It’s got action, tension and all the yummy hotness of Kate and Curran in all of it. Plus the ending had me all smiling and giggly and that is always very, very good. :)
2. Feed by Mira Grant – This book wasn’t the one that got me started on zombies this year, but it was the zombie book I loved the most. :) This book had me from the cover, and then with the story. I loved how geeky this book is and how emotional it is at the end. I loved the characters, and I loved the theme of the story…and I just really loved every bit of this book! This is one of the books that I got in Kindle, then got in print because I want to have my own copy. I gave a copy away, then I gave one as a gift, and now I’m (sort of) giving this away, too. I love this book that much.
3. Happyface by Stephen Emond – This is one of the impulse buys that I never regretted. I wasn’t a fan of hardcovers, but I am glad I got this one the moment I saw it because there are no copies of this one here. This is one of my favorite contemporary YA reads of the year. Happyface is such a darling character, and you just can’t help but fall in love with him. The plot is simple, but it’s very surprising and heartwarming at the end. I wish there were more copies of Happyface here so more people can read it…but that’s why I’m giving one away, right? ;) Oh, and I still think I look like Gretchen. ;)
4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley – This was another impulse buy, but I’ve been seeing this one way before I got it. I am glad I got it, too, because it has such a beautiful story. The story may sound a bit cheesy with all the beauty talk, but it doesn’t only just talk about inner beauty and self-esteem, but also complications of a family and dreams that never came true. Terra’s transformation was very inspiring, and the ending left me feeling very good about myself, and very beautiful. :) Truly a gem.
6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I wasn’t planning to read this, and I stopped reading the start for a couple of times, but after I finished the first chapter, I got hooked. Before I Fall is a surprisingly good and powerful novel about life, death, friendship and the choices we make and how they affect people. I finished this book with a wistful smile on my face and tears in my eyes, thankful that I finally gave in and read it.
7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This is one of the book that I know I would love, only because the people whose book tastes I trust loved this one, too. After reeling from The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I needed more dystopia to keep the high going, so I finally read this one. And I loved every bit of it. I know it gets better with the next two books, and I am very excited to read them. :D Soon.
8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – This book wouldn’t have made the list if I didn’t read it on time. If I read it in 2011, this would probably have made it in my 2011 list. :P I love the cover, and the story is just as good as the book. It’s not often you read a YA novel about a band, and it’s even rarer that you read a heroine who was deaf. It’s got diverse characters, a great story and a very rocking ending. :) A book that makes me reconsider my Top 10 is a book that deserves more attention. :D
9. Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – You know you really love a book when you re-read it and it still gives you the same feeling it did on the first read. You know you love a book when you actually re-read it in the first place, and within the same year, to boot! I re-read Fairy Tale Fail after I finished reading The Maze Runner, and I really needed a pick-me-up after. It definitely picked me up, and it made me wish to have my own Lucas all over again. :)
10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – And like every Best of 2010 books out there, I must not forget about Anna and the French Kiss! This book was an absolutely fun read. After a series of not-so-stellar books, this one just kind of blew my mind. :) I realized a lot of things in this book, particularly: I still love contemporary YA the best, and you can tell a completely ordinary story in an extraordinary way. This is also one of the books that I got on Kindle first, then the hardcover when I found out it’s already available here. That much love, people. That much love. :)
See, I told you it was too hard. I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you with too many books in this list! It’s just very, very hard to choose. Maybe next year I’ll be more critical, but I’m glad I read so many good books this year. Looking forward to what 2011 had to offer. :)
Now it’s your turn. What’s your top reads in 2010? :)
I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Get to know the awesomeness that is Feed by Mira Grant, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!