Saturday, May 4, 2013

Best Books of the First Quarter

Because let's face it . . . three months [whoops, make that four months now!] have gone by and what are the chances I'm going to catch up with all my book reviews? So I will cheat a bit and simply give you my favorite books from January, February, and March.


A history of the family that ruled England from the mid-12th century to the death of Richard III on Bosworth Field in 1485. Infant rulers, crazy kings, ambitious queen mothers, beautiful royalty and secret weddings and enough conspiracy for twenty Bond films–not to mention the Wars of the Roses–this was a great, readable history of a fascinating royal family.


Marillier is easily one of my favorite fantasy writers, particularly her Sevenwaters books set in Ireland in about the 6th century. Maeve was badly burned as a child at Sevenwaters and, after ten years away, has come home somewhat against her will. But men are vanishing in the forest, victims of the Fey prince who wants his son to come home to the Otherworld--a son who is now married to Maeve's sister. Maeve must put aside her doubts about her own abilities to protect her brother and her family. Start with DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST if you're looking for a good epic historical fantasy.


Wonderful YA debut fantasy about an assassin who is plucked from prison to compete in a tournament to the death in which the winner will become the personal assassin to the king. The same king who imprisoned her. But what does Celaena have to lose? The crown prince provokes her at every turn, the captain of the guard trains her for the competition, but the true danger lies in the underground maze of the castle where something evil has been unleashed. In a kingdom that denies magic, how is Celaena to win?


I adore Bradley's pre-teen sleuth, Flavia de Luce, who uses her unique mind to solve local crimes in 1950's England. This particular crime involves a lost saint beneath the church and a relic that could be the key to restoring her family's fortune--or at least ensuring that they don't have to sell their home. As the youngest sister, Flavia has dreams of being the hero. But then, in one innocent paragraph at the end of this novel, everything changes. Start with SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE to fully enjoy Flavia de Luce and her chemistry-sharpened wit tempered by a child's not always clear understanding.


A re-telling of JANE EYRE, Gemma Hardy is orphaned at a young age in Iceland and brought by her Scots uncle to live with his family. The basic structure is the same: unloved orphan, nasty aunt and cousins, unpleasant school, a job teaching a young girl in a remote manor (this time in the Orkneys), and an older and rather embittered man. But Livesey creates her own characters and world and so I never felt as though I could entirely trust what would happen next.

QUIET/Susan Cain

The subtitle is "The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking". Read it if you're an introvert. Read it if someone you love is an introvert. Read it simply to understand a section of the populace that is, by definition, quiet and thus often overlooked. I knew I loved this book from the front, where the author quotes Gandhi: "There's a word for those who are locked in their own minds: Thinkers."

ZOE'S TALE/John Scalzi

Scalzi continues to write stories set in the universe of OLD MAN'S WAR, but this is perhaps my favorite. It retells the events of book three in the cycle, THE LAST COLONY, from the POV of Zoe, adopted daughter to the colony leaders John and Jane Sagan. Considering that Zoe played a vital role in the resolution of THE LAST COLONY, it was particularly good to see how all that came about. But most affecting was Zoe herself--an intelligent teenager with attitude and friends and courage and grief.


I couldn't leave out the conclusion to Clare's The Infernal Devices series. The Shadowhunters of Victorian London are in grave danger from Mortmain and his clockwork automatons. Tessa Gray is the object of Mortmain's plots, but her largest grief is her love for best friends Will and Jem. Can she give up one for the other? What would she do to save either or both of them? And how will her own life as an immortal affect her decisions? Begin with CLOCKWORK ANGEL, continue with CLOCKWORK PRINCE, and read on to this book and its unique and heartbreaking and powerful conclusion.

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