Best of 2008 and New Year’s Resolution for 2009

A lot of people are posting a year end post for 2008. It's nice to see people looking back at the books they read for the year and picking out their favorite reads, and it's interesting to see what they picked. I thought it would be a good thing to try myself because with it recorded, I can look back in later years and see what my tastes were like.

Out of a total of 77 books read this year, very few got into my best list, but book ratings are highly subjective.  I just went with my gut and rated them according to how I felt about the book as soon as I finished reading them. These lists are compiled from ratings I put down in my private notes.

All the links to my reviews here are to my Livejournal.

The Books that Blew Me Away  – These books are those I gave top marks to when I first read them. It's a very hard list to get onto because I have to feel like I'm falling in love and cannot be parted from the book for it to get on this list. Only three got on it this year.

Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away – These came very close to getting top marks from me. This is a personal thing, but the books above I would put down and then obssessively think about when I could pick them up again. The books below, I didn't feel as consumed by the book, but still felt really impressed by them.

  • Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (my review)
  • Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I need to review this when I have the book in my hands)
  • The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (review coming soon)

Books I Really Liked/ Keepers. These each had several moments where I loved the book and overall I think these are books that deserve to be loved and read by others, but for some reason or other these didn't get into the top 7. I still consider these keepers, and all these authors are pretty much autobuys/ must read backlist authors. There are 19 of these books this year (Linnea Sinclair's name comes up a lot here, I was reading her backlist in 2008):

  • The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong (my review)
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (my review)
  • Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy (my review)
  • Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Bk 1) by Patricia Briggs (my review)
  • Easy Freedom by Liz Berry (my review)
  • Jinx by Jennifer Estep (my review)
  • Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (my review pt 1, pt 2)
  • The Good Neighbors by Holly Black (my review)
  • The Nanny by Melissa Nathan (my review)
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, Bk 1) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (my review)
  • Burndive by Karin Lowachee (my review)
  • An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly, Bk 3) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook (my review)


And for my New Year's Resolution – it's the same resolution as last year , to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 - 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – let's get it back up to 100!!

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The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook

The Decoy Princess
Dawn Cook
Princess at Sea
Dawn Cook

I’ve had The Decoy Princess and the following book Princess at Sea in my TBR for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to reading them till now. It feels like it’s been a while since I read a straight fantasy so it was a nice change of genres. I also have Cooks Truth series and I read the first one of the four, First Truth. That one was a bit slow for me so I haven’t started Hidden Truth yet, but the Princess series is a newer work and the premise seemed more intriguing to me so I decided to take a look.

The title says it all – a princess discovers that she was really plucked from the streets as a baby, to be used as a decoy for the real princess of Costenopolie. Unfortunately, she discovers this truth at the same time her betrothed Prince Garrett does, and as second son of a neighboring kingdom with a chip on his sleeve, he reacts with violent anger at being duped. At first I thought that Tessa was superficial and spoiled, but once she discovers who she really is and things start to hit the fan, she quickly adapts and manages to escape the palace on her own. Her plan is to find her sister, the real princess, and Kravenlow, her parent’s chancellor, but she is being pursued by Garrett’s Captain of the guard, a formidable man named Jeck. Along the way she also meets a cheat named Duncan, who admires Tess for her smarts, but also urges her to throw off her responsibilities and run away with him. The story is told from the first person viewpoint of Tessa, which seems to add to the urgency of the writing. It also felt more real – there was so much detail about how dirty and beat up Tess got from her travelling I wanted to take a shower or soak in the bath. Adding to everything is that Tess, Jeck and Kravenlow are all part of a huge game controlled by hidden “players” who influence history according to their own rules.  Book 2 continues about six months or so after book one, and without spoilers it all starts during her sister’s honeymoon voyage with her new husband on board Tess’ boat. Hmm, can’t say much more than that.

Both books followed the same pattern where at first I was just reading along but not really sucked in, and then something would happen and I just had to know what happened next. I admit I did skim ahead because I was really really curious, but then made myself come back and read it properly. There were a few surprises, and unexpected angst. I found most of the characters had layers which got slowly peeled back as time went by, and some things get revealed that I sort of expected, yet didn’t quite see it going down that way. Tess is also at turns quite quick thinking, but also blind/dumb when it came to people she really loved. So her weaknesses seem to be linked to naivete, and it’s quite painful for her when she realizes them. Once the end of the books came, it felt that the author had planned out the character arcs and plots really well. Both books hint through prophetic dreams at what will happen, but they didn’t give me much information and left me only tantalized. I felt rather satisfied by the final result, but I’d like to keep reading about Tess and I’m a bit sad I can’t find any information about a third book (I really hope there is one). Dawn Cook’s website is very sparse on the details. I know she writes under another name but those books aren’t straight fantasy like this. Sigh, I plan to keep my eye out. And to get around to reading the Truth series sooner.

Recommended if you like:
Moira Moore’s Hero series (the travelling and action seems similar)
Mindy Klasky’s Glasswright series (for the secret society that can trump even kings)
Maria V. Snyder’s Study series (Jeck/Tess’ relationship reminds me a little of Valek/Yelena’s)

Excerpt of book 1 – The Decoy Princess
Excerpt of book 2 – The Princess at Sea