Best of 2009 and New Year’s Resolution for 2010

I liked looking back last year at 2008 so this year I’m also looking back at 2009. I didn’t make my goal of reading 100 books, but at 79 books I was above last year’s number (77). Anyway, here’s my Best of 2009 list, broken down in the same way I broke down books last year:

The Books that Blew Me Away – This is a very small list, just three books, like last year.  I only put books on the list when a book consumes me.

  • Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliosotti
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (this is technically a 2010 book. Review to come) –
Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away This list is of books which I’d recommend without reservation and I loved them while reading them. There are more of these this year than last year (5 versus 4!)
  • Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James
  • Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine
  • Endless Blue by Wen Spencer
  • Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Books I Really Liked/ Keepersthese are also recommended and all have several moments that I loved in them and I think many people will like these books:

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
  • Must Love Hellhounds (anthology) Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Charlaine Harris — I liked 2 of the 4 stories a lot
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
  • Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Sins & Shadows (Shadows Inquiries) by Lyn Benedict
  • The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percey Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
  • What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
  • Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  • Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James
  • Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair
  • Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, Bk 1) by Ann Aguirre
  • Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Bk 6) by Carrie Vaughn
  • What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Kitty Norville, Bk 4) by Carrie Vaughn
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, Bk 3) by Carrie Vaughn

And for my New Year’s Resolution – First I have the usual one which is to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books

The second resolution is to make the TBR go down. I was really bad over my Christmas vacation and the TBR is over 190 right now. The plan is that I can’t buy a book unless I read two or more. Let’s hope I have the willpower.

Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine

Salt and Silver
Anna Katherine
I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I found it browsing online and I read the excerpt.  The cover and the excerpt made me think this would be shelved in urban fantasy but I found it in the romance aisle. The spine says “paranormal romance”. It kind of walks on the line on the two genres I think.

Note on the cover – I noticed they changed the cover font from blue and white to half silver (to resemble molten silver) and half white (like sprinklings of salt) – Love it.

The Premise: Allie is an ex-spoiled rich girl. The kind of rich that meant a mansion in Long Island, designer clothes and accessories, and two equally spoiled and rich best friends, Amanda and Stan, who grow up next door. The day her mother stole all their money and ran away to Brazil with her lover Rio, Allie suddenly had to grow up. She had to take a job as a waitress in diner in Brooklyn.  After her first day at Sally’s Diner, Allie, Amanda, and Stan perform a silly ritual in a fit of drunkenness which ends up opening a Door to Hell in the basement of the diner. Immediately a Stetson-wearing demon hunter, Ryan appears. This was six years ago. Allie has grown up, taken over management of the diner, and on the side she helps Ryan kill demons that escape from the Door. Until one day the Door in the diner’s basement suddenly disappears and she and Ryan have to find out what happened.

My Thoughts: The narrative is in the first person and is really informal – almost stream of consciousness, and full of swearing and sarcasm. It almost seemed young adult but not quite. After thinking about it I decided it was the voice of a young twenty-something, and it’s a BIG part of whether you will enjoy the book. If the voice here isn’t for you, you won’t like it, so I highly recommend reading the excerpt of chapter one.

The world here is ours except there are Doors to Hell which every so often let out creatures that the door guards kill. Normal people (the mundanes) don’t know about it and just keep living their lives. I won’t go into more detail than that, but I thought that the world building was really organic – you learn as the story goes along, with Allie not ignorant, but kept uninformed of certain facts from the hunters until she needed to know. The demons and monsters that Allie runs into all have basis in mythology and a wide variety of beliefs. For example there are different versions of Hell and it was really fascinating how characters reacted to what they saw in the Hells according to what they believed.

Allie has grown up  but her two friends from her old life have not. She holds on to them because she remembers that they were there for her when she became poor, but you get the feeling she keeps in contact because of loyalty, not because she actually likes them. It’s an interesting situation, and it’s sort of a coming of age aspect that you don’t usually see in adult urban fantasy. This also works with the story because Amanda and Stan’s selfishness and immaturity affect what’s going on with the Doors.  I think it explains Allie’s voice too. She may have grown up but her thoughts sometimes channel Cher from Clueless, but not in a way that made me dislike her. I actually really liked Allie’s character because of what she’s gone through, and because she came out with a wish to be a better person. She can’t hate the Door under Sally’s Diner because she knows it brought her Ryan and fighting it has also made her a more mature person.

The romance is a decent chunk of the story, but Ryan and Allie’s relationship has been an ongoing one so a lot of the falling in love seemed to have happened before the book even starts, with some flashbacks to key scenes and the only barrier is Ryan’s admitting that he feels anything (Allie on the other hand admits freely that she has a huge crush). A lot of the book happens before it starts, with flashbacks used to show how things have changed over the years, not just with their relationship, but with Allie’s relationship with Stan and Amanda. Ryan’s reasons for not acting on his feelings for Allie were believable (though I didn’t agree with him), so I found it understandable why he kept pushing Allie away even when it’s obvious he really likes her. When the relationship heats up, I guess it is “finally” for a lot of other characters, but because this book doesn’t really show all 6 years up to that point, to me it was a little surprising.  I thought it would take longer for Ryan to break down, he acts very standoffish when the book begins, but by chapter two his soft center regarding Allie begins to show, so apparently six years was enough. I liked this couple, especially Allie, but I wasn’t a fan of Allie begging Ryan with “Please” during certain scenes.

Overall: Really liked this one – I had a hard time putting it down and it was a fast read. It has a bit of a quest in different dimensions in it which is something I like reading (looks like the authors enjoy researching magic and superstition), and the romance was sweet – good friends becoming more. The voice is different so do go read the excerpt before you buy. This isn’t a standalone, it’s the beginning of a series, but I think that other books may focus on other characters in this world if I read the authors comment’s on it here right, so you can probably treat this as almost a standalone. The ending is in a good, satisfying place and I’m definitely putting whatever else Anna Katherine writes on my wish list.

Other reviews:

Scooper Speaks (she couldn’t connect with the main char)
The Book Smugglers – gave it a 7 (very good)

Another one that looks interesting

Salt and Silver
Anna Katherine

Hmm. Doorway to Hell at a restaurant the heroine works in, guarded fo six years so far by a demon hunter who she's interested in (but he doesn't seem interested in her):

"Allie can’t seem to get it together.  Ever since her mom ran away to Rio with Rio—her tennis instructor—stealing Allie’s trust fund and her comfortable way of life, Allie has been floundering.  She works in Sally’s Diner, and lives above it. And one night in the basement, she and her friends chant a ridiculous spell—for money, for luck, for love…and open a Doorway to Hell. 

Ryan thinks he’s got it all figured out.  When the Door opened he appeared out of nowhere, a Stetson-wearing demon hunter dressed in leather. He’s assigned to the Door, and hangs out at the diner, and when the Door disappears he is certain that Allie had something to do with it.

But something strange is happening in Brooklyn.  Something bigger than Allie, and Ryan, and the Door in the diner basement.  And when a meeting of demon hunters gives birth to a dangerous idea, Allie and Ryan are left to wonder if the fragile feelings growing between them can survive a trip to Hell…or if they themselves will survive at all.  "

The author Anna Katherine is actually two people named Anna and Kat. According to their website they "have both worked in the publishing industry for most of their lives. They wrote Salt and Silver to be a jolly romp, starring a type of heroine they love but rarely see in romance novels." Could be good. But is this paranormal romance or urban fantasy? I'm not sure. The writing in the excerpt sort of has a flippant, almost young adult vibe but it's not young adult. The publisher is Tor.

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