Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Top Ten for 2013 (So Far)

Can you believe the year is half over? Amazing. I think that’s hard to believe partly because we had such a long-drawn-out spring, though I must admit it definitely feels like full summer now as we move toward July.

Anyway! It was amazingly easy to pick this list; what was hard was sorting them out in order. The whole middle of the list, yeah, those titles are all jammed tight together.

I see, btw, that I have so far read an average of nine books per month, with surprisingly little variation (from eight to ten). I had no idea I was being so consistent this year. I’ve read fifty-one books total so far this year, so I doubt I’ll wind up reading as many this year as I did last year. (Last year I read 147 books! Not much chance of that this year, given that I want to finish writing the BLACK DOG sequel (which at the moment I’m calling PURE MAGIC, btw) and also finish another book that I have partly done at the moment.)

Anyway, two of the books I read in January leap right out: NK Jemisin’s THE KILLING MOON / THE SHADOWED SUN duology. For me, though both of these belong on a best-of-2013 list, the second book of the duology was actually the one I preferred. Just curious: anybody else put them in that order?

In February, I read eight books, of which no fewer than three are jostling for room on the best-of list: AND ALL THE STARS by Andrea Höst, THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater, and A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennen.

Moving right along, in March I got a Kindle and immediately my virtual TBR shelves exploded, but it’s not like I suddenly had a lot of virtual days to read ‘em in, so I still wound up reading only nine books. Several of those were disappointing, but The Fall of the Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells was a standout.

April was unusual because I liked every single book I read; in fact, I liked them all quite a lot. I had Cherryh’s latest Foreigner book in there, and a murder mystery by Maron (I immediately picked up three others of that series), and this was the month I discovered The Shadow Unit series by Emma Bull et al. Even in such a solid month, though, it’s easy to distinguish two favorites: THE WHEEL OF THE INFINITE by Martha Wells and THE CHOCOLATE THIEF by Laura Florand. Those two present quite a contrast, in style and setting and genre and really basically everything, but they’re both so good.

May was my Andrea Höst month: the standouts for that month were definitely her Medair duology and her Touchstone Trilogy.

And June? I doubt I’ll read another book this month, so it’s safe to pick. Of the five books I’ve read this month, I have to say, 2312 by KSR really is pretty amazing. But my actual favorite for the month is definitely Florand’s THE CHOCOLATE KISS.

If you count each book separately, that’s seventeen books jostling for position on my top-ten list (and the year only half over!). Of course, if you count series as one each, then, hey, this is in fact a list of ten. Some series are a lot more firmly linked into one story than others, though, with the Medair duology and the Touchstone trilogy both comprising just one story each. It seems right to treat this as a top-ten list of stories, rather than titles. So here goes (drumroll, please):

Rachel’s Top Ten Stories from the First Half of 2013, in descending order:

1. The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea Höst. I just loved this story and re-read most of it immediately. This is because of the diary format; when Cassandra starts to read her diary out loud to her lover, I just had to go back and start the series over and think about what it would be like to have the person you love read this to you.

2. The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin.

3. The Fall of the Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells.

4. The Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells. I actually had a hard time sorting this one out with the Ile-Rien trilogy, but I finally decided that whereas I loved the beginning of Wheel more, I loved the ending of the Ile-Rien story better, so set the Ile-Rien trilogy higher. Endings are hard! And very important.

5. The Medair duology by Andrea Höst. I know I talked about the Touchstone trilogy more, but I don’t want to sell this great duology short. The more I think about endings and beginnings and flow and characterization and everything, the better this story gets. If I particularly loved to have romance as the central subplot, this one would move up the list.

6. The Killing Moon by NK Jemisin.

7. And All the Stars by Andrea Höst.

8. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

9. The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand. You know, the more I think about it, the more impressed I am by the tightness of the plotting as well as by the sheer quality of the writing. The story does open out a little toward the end, with time-is-passing paragraphs to move things along. Nevertheless, there are all these important tidbits of foreshadowing, almost all of which I missed at the time — very impressive. And I fell so hard for Magalie, such a wonderful protagonist; I think I was almost as traumatized when she got locked out of her apartment as she was. (You’ll have to read the story to find out why that was so traumatic, but it was an extremely effective scene, believe me.)

10. The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand. Anybody who loves Sarah Addison Allen should try Florand, btw, and of course vice versa. There are some differences; Florand tends to focus more on the erotic awareness of each protagonist for the other, for example. But they are both just such amazing writers.

I know, I might as well have made this a top-five-authors list, right? What can I say? I didn’t think of that until I’d already done it this way.

What about you? Anybody got a handful of titles that (or authors who) are clear standouts for the year?

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