Top New Series I Want to Start


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s list is Top New Series I Want to Start. I tried to come up with a nice variation of genres, but ended up picking a lot of young adult and fantasy books; let’s face it, those genres typically do really well in the series format. I didn’t quite make it to ten, but hopefully I’ll have another series to add after I read your lists!

1. Alex Wayfare Series by M. G. Buehrlen
First Book: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction (Time Travel)
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

186660472. Shattered Sea Series by Joe Abercrombie
First Book: Half a King
Genres: Fantasy
Publication Date: July 15, 2014

157910853. The Falconer Series by Elizabeth May
First Book: The Falconer
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 6, 2014

101941574. The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo
First Book: Shadow and Bone
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

180900825. John Gower Series by Bruce Holsinger
First Book: A Burnable Book
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date: February 18, 2014

173991606. Snow Like Ashes Series by Sara Raasch
First Book: Snow Like Ashes
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: October 14, 2014

160690307. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
First Book: The Winner’s Curse
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

179991088. Kingmaker Series by Toby Clements
First Book: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims
Genres: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 10, 2014

158399769. Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown 
First Book: Red Rising
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Publication Date: January 28, 2014


Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels

I’m excited to finally participate in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weekly meme has been one of my favorites ever since I started blogging, and I’ve finally decided to take part myself. This week’s list is Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels; several of my picks are actually whole series, because a series typically has to be character driven for me to keep coming back for more. Also, you’ll have to forgive me for the time travel theme – I just can’t help myself. Here are my picks for this week (in no particular order):


1. Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon 

I would be remiss if I didn’t include Gabaldon’s Outlander Series on this list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to not get incredibly invested in the lives of Claire, Jamie, and the rest of the ever-growing cast of characters in these novels. Although I’d probably categorize these books as historical fiction, they don’t neatly fit into one genre: they also have strong elements of romance, fantasy, and science fiction (time travel). The series has a substantial following of loyal fans, and I imagine that group will only continue to grow now that the Starz adaptation has seen so much success (you can check out the first episode for free here).


2. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis 

Doomsday Book is also a bit of a genre-bending time travel novel, in which Kivrin Engle hops into a time machine in 2054, headed for 1320s England. As you might guess, some unexpected things happen, and she finds herself in the middle of the Black Death. In short: Doomsday Book is a heart-wrenching look at the human experience. The book’s heroine is, of course, quite likable and relatable, but I became profoundly attached to the characters she meets in the fourteenth century (Agnes!). So. Many. Emotions.


3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Does this one really even need an explanation? I think not. Elizabeth Bennet + Mr. Darcy. That is all.


4. The Tudor Court Series by Philippa Gregory

Gregory’s novels about Tudor England are must-reads for anyone who likes British historical fiction. The Other Boleyn Girl is arguably the most popular book in Gregory’s Tudor series, but The Queen’s Fool is my personal favorite, mainly because I love its main character so much. Unlike most of the books in this series, The Queen’s Fool is not told from the perspective of a monarch/royal in the Tudor Court, and is instead told from the perspective of Hannah Green: the “holy fool” to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.


5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a post-apocalyptic story that follows a father and son through their bleak journey across ruined America. Driven by the father-son relationship, this novel is incredibly dark, sometimes disturbing, and emotionally draining.


6. Slains Series by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea was one of my favorite reads last year, and I quickly picked up its companion novel, The Firebird (you can read my review of it here). Like I mentioned, the books are more companion novels than they are a series, in that they are connected but can stand alone. I love the main characters in each of these novels (especially The Firebird), and I really like the way in which Kearsley connects them across novels – you should just read them to see what I mean! Highly recommended for anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, and fantasy.


7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking Series (the second is in my TBR pile), and is about a young boy named Todd and his dog, Manchee. Todd is from Prentisstown – where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts (even the animals!). Funny, scary, and heartbreaking all at the same time, TKONLG is one of my favorite YA novels that I’ve read in quite some time.


8. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Surprise! Another historical fiction/time travel novel. I simply love this book and its characters and can’t wait for the sequel to come out – you can get a short synopsis and a few of my thoughts on it here.


9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

To be honest with you, I picked The Goldfinch up earlier this summer and haven’t finished it yet. It’s quite dense, so when I got sidelined by school and wedding-planning, The Goldfinch got put on the back burner. However, I really enjoyed what I was able to read, and want to give it another shot so I can see what happens with its main character, Theo Decker (I got through a lot of his youth sequences, so I’m anxious to see him in adulthood).

10. Well, I didn’t quite make it to ten, but since I had so many series on here, I’ll call it a win! I hope you take some inspiration from my picks this week.

Burial Rites | By Hannah Kent

burialritesBook: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Pages: 322
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Burial Rites gives a fictional account of the final days of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Convicted of murdering her former master, Natan Ketilsson, Agnes is sent to live with a family on a remote farm until her execution. While the family reluctantly houses Agnes, a young priest named Tóti is chosen to give her spiritual guidance, and Agnes slowly begins to reveal the truth of what really happened.

Thoughts: Burial Rites is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a while. Kent’s writing is hauntingly illustrative, particularly so in Agnes’s first-person narrative. This is also one of the darkest books I’ve ever read; Agnes’s story is one without mercy or hope, and Kent doesn’t take many liberties with the facts. Nevertheless, the style and quality of the writing in Burial Rites is enough to make it a worthy read, albeit depressing.

As Kent discusses in the afterword, history has not remembered Agnes favorably; and while the book presents a less one-sided view of Agnes, she isn’t necessarily likable in the novel. Instead, Burial Rites humanizes Agnes in a way that makes you grieve for her. Margret, her keeper at the farm, was perhaps the most reflective of myself as a reader in terms of how my view of Agnes changed throughout the novel. Utterly hostile towards Agnes upon her arrival at the farm, Margret slowly begins to welcome Agnes’s presence and seeks to understand the truth of her involvement in Natan’s murder. While Agnes and Margret were fully developed as characters, I found the others to be somewhat superficial, particularly Agnes’s “accomplices” and Margret’s daughters.

I wasn’t bothered by the changes in POV, especially since Agnes’s narrative was so emotionally heavy. I also found Kent’s placement of historical records before each chapter to be very effective in providing the historical context by keeping me grounded in the actual events that led up to Agnes’s execution. The pacing was slow and dragging at times, but appropriate, for it mirrored what Agnes likely felt in her final days: the torment of waiting. The pace quickened in the last few chapters and led up to what I thought was an extremely powerful ending that rang with finality.

Bottom line: Burial Rites is an impressive debut novel from a promising new author. Kudos, Kent.


The Firebird | By Susanna Kearsley

thefirebirdBook: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy (Paranormal), Romance
 Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Pages: 539
Rating: ★★★★★


Historical fiction was my first love of reading; it hooked me and ruined me for books of any other genre for quite some time. I read dozens of historical fiction novels, hoping that each one would be better than the last. So naturally, this happened:


…And I swore off historical fiction for a while. It took an author like Susanna Kearsley to remind me why I fell in love with the genre in the first place. I picked up The Firebird immediately after finishing its companion novel, The Winter Sea. As a side note – I highly recommend reading The Winter Sea as well, if not first, but you don’t have to in order to understand The Firebird. 

Synopsis: The novel deals with dual story lines of past and present, the latter starring Nicola Marter. Nicola can touch objects and see visions of those objects’ journeys, which is a gift she keeps a secret. Her job working for an art dealer brings her into contact with a wooden carving – known as the Firebird – that allegedly belonged to Russia’s Empress Catherine. Although there’s no proof, Nicola knows the truth, which sends her on a quest to prove the Firebird did in fact belong to the Empress.

Enter Rob McMorran, Nicola’s hunk of a Scottish ex-boyfriend with similar yet superior psychic capabilities. Unlike Nicola, he doesn’t keep his gifts a secret. Rob agrees to help Nicola see into the Firebird’s past, which ultimately leads them to St. Petersburg, Russia. Some telepathy ensues, and Nicola and Rob are forced to deal with all sorts of unresolved feelings.


Back in the eighteenth century in the midst of the Jacobite risings, a young girl named Anna is thrust into a life on the run. With their abilities, Nicola and Rob are able follow Anna from childhood to young adulthood and bear witness to her love, loss, and her relentless conviction to protect those she loves. There’s also an Irish rogue named Edmund involved.

Thoughts: The historical aspect of The Firebird is clearly well researched, yet not bogged down with mundane details. Kearsley tells you what you need to know about the historical context while keeping you engaged.

Although told from Nicola’s perspective, Rob carries the contemporary storyline; he’s charming and unapologetically sure of himself. Nicola can be irritating at times, but it’s far from impossible to sympathize with her. The paranormal aspect of their relationship may be offsetting to some readers, but I found it fascinating. If anything, it heightens the romantic tension; I caught my breath every time Nicola had an unguarded thought about Rob.


The historical storyline was the most gripping for me, particularly because of how much I loved Anna. About halfway through, I was clamoring for more of her story. Easily the heroine of the book, Anna is unyielding in her determination to protect the family she never knew. Her relationship with the smoldering Edmund is thoroughly entertaining. Overall, I think I was more invested in Anna’s story because of her connection to The Winter Sea.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction with paranormal aspects. The end of the book left me wanting more, and – unusual for me – there were some happy tears.

2013: The Year in Review

I thought a good starting point for my blog would be to take a look back at some of the highlights – and lowlights – of my reading experience in 2013. Be they bad, good, or great, here are just some of the reads that stood out.

ronrBook: The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction (Time Travel), Historical Romance
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Pages: 452
Rating: ★★★★

Quick Thoughts: I loved this book. Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern day London – 200 years after he is almost killed on a battlefield in Spain. He is greeted by the Guild, a secret society that “catches” time travelers and conditions them for their new lives; there is no going back, or so he’s told. Meanwhile, back in 1815, Julia Percy is coping with the death of her grandfather and trying to protect the family secret: how to manipulate time. While this book is about time travel, it isn’t bogged down with the science of it. There’s also a love story that gives it a bit of a romance vibe, but not excessively. Otherwise, it’s historical fiction-meets-fantasy. I could not put it down. Bottom line: I’m IMPATIENTLY waiting for the sequel.


boneseasonBook: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #1
Fantasy, YA, Paranormal
Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date:
August 20, 2013
Rating: ★★★

Quick Thoughts: For me, this book just didn’t live up to the hype. The story takes place in 2059 and follows Paige Mahoney through Scion London as she uses her clairvoyance to break into people’s minds. When Paige is captured for using her powers, she is imprisoned in Oxford under the control of supernatural creatures called the Rephaim. Paige must harness her powers under the watch of Warden, her disconcerting Rephaite keeper, if she is to have any chance at freedom. The Bone Season is an ambitious debut novel with a gripping plot – if you can get past the information overload. It’s both grueling and fascinating at the same time. Bottom line: I enjoyed it, but I probably won’t be racing to pick up the next installment.


Book: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
 The Checquy Files #1
Genres: Fantasy (Urban Fantasy), Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 512
Rating: ★★★★

Quick Thoughts: The Rook was easily one of my favorite reads of 2013. Suspenseful, humorous, and downright bizarre, The Rook chronicles the very new life of Myfanwy Thomas after she wakes up in a park with no recollection of who she is. With instructions written by her former self to guide her, Myfanwy learns to navigate her life as an endangered member of a supernatural guild known as the Checquy. Some parts had me tensing in anticipation, while others had me laughing out loud. The Rook doesn’t take its supernatural elements too seriously; the absurdity just grows, but it works. Bottom line: it’s a fun read! I’m looking forward to the sequel.

allegiantBook: Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy
Genres: YA, Science Fiction (Dystopia)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Pages: 544

Quick Thoughts: To say that this book was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. In the final installment of the Divergent Trilogy, Tris Prior is ready to face the world beyond the fence. When her discoveries change everything she thought she knew and believed, her relationships and convictions are put to the test. While many readers of the series have harped on the ending in particular, I found the entire book to be lacking. Allegiant completely deviates from the first two installments, the dual perspectives are confusing, and the plot is simply sloppy. For me, this was a very unsatisfying end to a series that I really enjoyed. I could really go on forever, but I won’t.


Bottom line: If you’ve read the first two books but haven’t gotten around to Allegiant yet, then read it and decide for yourself. If you haven’t started the series, read at your own risk.

winterseaBook: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Pages: 544
Rating: ★★★★

Quick Thoughts: This was one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read in awhile. Carrie McClelland travels to Slains Castle in Scotland to do research for her novel about the attempted Jacobite invasion of 1708. While writing about one of her ancestors, Sophia, Carrie discovers that she might be dealing with ancestral memory. The Winter Sea’s take on time travel is refreshing, the historical aspect is thoroughly researched, the characters are endearing, and the love stories are genuine. Bottom line: if you like historical fiction with a touch of mystery and romance, you should read this. I can’t believe I waited until 2013 to pick it up!  

Until next time…