Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 IN REVIEW: Best new author discoveries of the year

I read. A lot.

Because of that, it's only normal that I would "discover" a decent number of new authors in any given year.

This year was particularly interesting for me, and not just because I discovered a bevy of new literature series to fall in love with -- but also because I finally wiped my hands of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and MaryJanice Davidson's Queen Betsy series, among a few others that have just gone on too long. I feel a certain sense of relief over dropping the dead weight to make room for some fresh faces (like those below).

To be fair, I discovered J.D. Robb's In Death series -- more than 30 books in total -- late in the year and I've been obsessed with getting through that series for the past month, too. Still, though, I've found that -- thanks to the indie publishing revolution -- I have found a great deal of new authors to embrace.

I want to point out that not all of these books were published this year. I only discovered them this year. That doesn't mean they don't deserve a little love, though.

So, in no particular order:

Dusk Gate Chronicles -- This was a summer find. The books (five full novels, one short story)
revolve around teenager Quinn, who finds herself following the school outcast -- William -- one afternoon when he practically disappears in front of her eyes. Quinn is understandably curious, so she follows William over the "gate" one day, and finds herself in a whole new world. The idea of traveling through an invisible gate and discovering a new world isn't a new idea. What author Breeana Putroff has done here, though, is to develop a rich mystery that is equal parts fun and dire straits. The mythology she has created for this world is nothing short of fantastic. Putroff not only gives her heroine, Quinn, a strong history but a bright future -- and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series. That being said, I do have one quibble with the series. I'm not a big fan of the whole teenagers getting married thing. Sometimes, it's okay for teenagers to have sex without getting married. This anchoring teenagers to forever thing that happens in books today -- and I'm not blaming Putroff, because it happens in a lot of series -- just seems like a way to take away future choices for teenage girls. It's a very minor quibble, though. These are well-written books with a great foundation. Click here for the series, which ranges in price from free to $7.99 (entire series so far).

Witch Avenue Series -- This four-episode series also has a young adult theme, but I like that author Karice Bolton isn't scared to let teenagers have sex. Of course, she eventually falls into the teenagers marrying trap -- but it's refreshing to wade through the four books until she does. This series opens up with a teenage Triss hanging out on the beach with her mother. In short order, her mother disappears and Triss realizes that the past she thought she knew isn't exactly the truth. No  young adult title is complete without a hunky paramour, and Bolton introduces Logan to fill that bill in these books. I like this series because it embraces the paranormal, but not in a way that makes the reader feel like they're going to have to accept a lot of plot contrivances to explore the world. Triss is a strong heroine, and Logan is a dashing hero -- even if he does have a tendency to talk down to Triss like she's a small child at times. I'm especially impressed with Bolton's ability to contain the story instead of trying to pad it out in an attempt to fleece money from readers. That takes a lot of guts. It helps that Bolton's world is so visceral and visual. The entire series is available for $7.99. Click here to buy it.

Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.: It's rare for a cozy mystery book to actually enlighten the reader on
mythology, religion and the venom of politics. That's the weird dichotomy that Angela Roquet has managed to not only explore but master, as well, in her Lana Harvey series. Lana Harvey is a reaper. That means low pay and high risk as she constantly ferries spirits to their rightful destination -- and that could be a bevy of different places given the number of world religions there are to consider. Roquet has created a world that manages to explore religion -- and politics, quite frankly -- without being preachy or telling the reader which religion is right. That's quite a feat when you're talking about the hereafter -- and where souls go when they die. There are three books in the series so far -- but I'm looking forward to continuing the series the minute it picks up again. Lana herself if the key to the books' success. Lana is a plucky heroine with a kind heart and a cadre of colorful characters surrounding her (including a hilariously drunk archangel). She also knows that something isn't quite right in the world she's living in -- and she's willing to risk her life to make sure that the fates stay balanced, so to speak. The first book in the series is free, or you can get all three books for $4.99. Click here to check out Roquet's unbelievable work.

Witch Central: Author Debora Geary has created an extensive -- and I do mean extensive -- world here. If you're a fan of the genre, then you really have a lot to choose from. Witch Central is a group of witches with different powers -- earth, water, fire, net, etc. Most of these witches are from the same family, with matriarch Nell at the center of it. Nell and her husband created an online game called Realm -- and there are a lot of coding references in the books. Why the series works, though, is not just the masterful blending of old world witchcraft and modern technology. It's the heart of the family. Sure, the characters are a little white-washed and the kids are allowed to be fairly rude to adults on a regular basis, but the true heart of the series dwells in the family interactions. The books have managed to expand and include more outsiders into the family -- Lauren and Lizard being my personal favorites -- while still allowing the reader to get a sense of family, no matter what book they're reading. Since the books occur in two different places (primarily), readers also get to enjoy the old world charm of Nova Scotia and the more bustling feeling of Los Angeles whenever they want. So, if there is a dud of a book you don't like -- and there was one in the series that kind of turned me off -- you can just wait for the next book to be sucked back in. This really is a great series and Geary should be applauded for her hard work. Click here to meet Debora Geary.

Dead, But Not For Long: It's hard to find new and original zombie fiction out there right now. Most of it is pretty much the same stuff: A group of survivors trying to decide if the scarier thing is the zombies or the humans left behind. In Dead, But Not For Long, Matthew Kinney and Lesa Anders have managed to straddle an interesting line. While zombie apocalypses are terrible things -- and should be treated thusly -- there is also room for humor in the genre. That's why this book works. It's serious, with serious characters and dire situations -- but it's also surreal and funny thanks to a borderline sociopath named Eric Wapowski.
I'm not joking. If you've ever wanted to see a fast-food run in a zombie apocalypse, this is the book for you. I was initially drawn to this story because it's set in Michigan, but I stayed for the entirety of the story because of the richly drawn characters and the surprising shifts in genre tone. There isn't a lot not to love here. There are serious moments and there are funny moments. This obviously isn't a book for everyone, but it had everything I love about a book. I really can't say enough about it. The authors are currently finishing up the sequel, and I will be snapping that up the minute it comes out. The first book is available for $2.99 -- and there is a short side story available, too. Click here to buy Dead, But Not For Long.

Easy Bake Coven: I bought the first book in this series because of the title. I thought it was a cozy mystery about witches. Not quite. I finished the book because the story put forth was both engaging and also heart-stopping, at times. This is not a book about witches. This is actually a book about alternate realms and elvish kingdoms. Yeah, I know, you would never know it from the title. It's a great series, though. There's a rich mythology here. I'm not going to lie, the book titles are misleading. These are well-written books, though, and the universe they're set in is simply fantastic. Schulte has created an engaging heroine that has unlikable qualities. That takes a lot of guts, so when an author does it, I think she should be lauded for it. I don't have any complaints about these books other than the titles -- which seem to get more and more painful with each subsequent entry in the series. I think Schulte could be missing out on her core audience -- because her core audience has no way to recognize these books for what they really are: fantasies, not cozy witch mysteries. Click here to check out Liz Schulte's work, because it's definitely worth it. Just don't let the covers (or titles) mislead you.

The Darcy Walker Series: This is another young adult series I discovered this summer when I was
sitting in my pool and fell in love with it. Darcy Walker is a tomboy heroine that doesn't care if she fits in or not. As created by AJ Lape, Darcy lives with her strict father and sister, but she spends most of her time with her (conveniently) hot best friend Dylan. Of course, Dylan obviously wants to be more than friends with Darcy -- and Darcy wants it, too -- but she has low self-esteem so she doesn't think it's possible. While all the romantic shenanigans are going on, Darcy also keeps getting caught up in area mysteries. I'm a big fan of this series, and I enjoy the mysteries and Darcy, for the most part. I'm not thrilled with the faux low self-esteem, though. I like a heroine that realizes her self worth, and Darcy gets a little pathetic in that area a lot of the time. My only complaint with this series is the dialogue. Some of Darcy and Dylan's interactions are so sickly sweet, you wonder if a delusional 12-year-old girl thought them up. You know that's not possible, though, because of all the 1980s references from a teenage girl in today's society. Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense in that regard. You can tell this is a young adult series written by someone that grew up in the 1980s -- but that is the only complaint I have about these books. Otherwise, they're fabulous -- and often very self-empowering for  young girls. Click here to check out the Darcy Walker series.

The Dollhouse Series: I stumbled across this one on a fluke. I was looking for a new horror series to read, and the description of the first book in this series sounded right up my alley. And it was.  The series, penned by Anya Allyn follows teenage Cassie, as she goes looking for a missing friend in the Australian wilderness. What she finds is a horrific underground trap that houses death and terror around every corner. The first book in the series is not only bone-chilling, but marvelously poignant as it explores the angst of teenage love and the bitter resolve that accompanies it. The second book in the series completely turns everything you learn in the first book on its head. That's good in some aspects and bad in others. Unfortunately, sometimes it reminded me of The Following television show -- and not in a good way. The third book in the series completely shakes things up again. At its heart, the Dollhouse series has a solid mythology. There are just a lot of sudden swings for readers to wrap their minds around. The first book in the series is so stellar, though, that it's worth reading all by itself. I'll have to wait until the fourth (and final) book is released before I review the series as a whole. As it stands now, I'm still intrigued about how all of this is going to wrap up. Check out Allyn's work here.

Eochaidh: While I gave up on Terri Reid's Mary O'Reilly series this year, I also discovered a
mythology heavy new book by the prolific author that takes readers to an old world -- but gives it a new twist. Reid introduces readers to Morganna,   an ancient sorceress with the ability to move through time, and the heroes that are trying to stop her. We get introduced to old favorite Merlin and the Legend of the Horseman, a story that manages to transcend time thanks to Reid's competent hand. This story is not only well-written, but it's set in a universe I don't think readers see enough of these days. This is a richly drawn new series that lets readers turn on their imagination "chip" and hop on the literary train for an enjoyable ride. I know this is just the first entry in a new series, but it really is some of Reid's best work. The prose is strong and crisp, and the story is a nice change of pace. I love a new series that takes readers out of this world and transports them to another -- and that's exactly what Reid does here. Click here for Eochaidh.

What do you think? What new authors did you discover this year?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home