First off, a couple of books I didn't like, but they were part of my "quest" - I made it a goal of my own to try and read some things that aren't the kind of stuff I always read. So we have a couple of books that are by authors I've never heard of before.
1. A Kindle book, cheap. Witch for Hire (A Witch's Path Book 1) by N. E. Conneely The premise sounded amusing - a witch who works for several police departments in Georgia, as a consultant, when supernatural things cause problems. In execution, however, the book was weak - it read more like a YA than anything else, even though our protagonist isn't a teenager. There's absolutely no sense of how a real work day goes, or what real jobs are like. The family secret is revealed, with reasons for keeping it that sound incoherent, and the resolution of it goes far too smoothly and quickly for what it is. New magical beings spring out of nowhere, as needed, just to give our heroine something to do. The dinner table conversation at the boarding house she lives in is there just so that there are other characters for Michelle to bounce off of - and it's difficult to tell one kind of supernatural humanoid character from another. And the love interest is barely even there at all - and really, Elron? An elf named Elron? Reeeeally? No convincing reasons why said elf should be attracted to Michelle, and even fewer to explain why she should be interested in a middle-aged elf; their repeated interactions seem to be a series of non-sequiters. The ending is ambiguous enough to pretty much guarantee that the author intends a sequel; I don't intend to read it.
2. From the library, allegedly first in a new series: Pile of Bones (A Novel of the Parallel Parks) by Bailey Cunningham - I'm providing a link to Amazon, because that's easier that linking to a library site most of you won't be signed in on. " In one world, they’re ordinary university students. In another world, they are a company of heroes in a place of magic and myth called Anfractus" RPGers playing a game in a park in Regina, Saskatchewan. The university students are allegedly grad students, and honestly, the grad students I know don't have time for this much game playing. And /everybody/ needs more sleep than any of these characters get - even medical interns on call get more time to sleep between shifts than these guys seem to get between playing their game all night and TA-ing all day. Anyway, the magical world inside the park.seems to be vaguely based on ancient Rome, with lots of Latin words and place names and professions. Why a magical interface from a park made over a Cree area full of buffalo bones should be European rather than Native American/First People/Indian, I haven't figured out. And after chapter 3 or so, I stopped trying, and started skimming, because it became obvious that this book is written for gamers, and is just a novelization of a game, albeit a game the author invented. And I think you'd have to be a serious live-action RPG-er to care what these characters are doing, or to follow their reasoning, even when they're in the real world. You'd also have to be more familiar with Regina than I am, and I don't care to have to familiarize myself with the streets and neighborhoods of an unfamiliar small Canadian city just in order to be able to follow a fantasy novel. In short - not at all interesting to someone who isn't fascinated by novelizations of someone's D&D games from college.
Now on to one I did like:
3. Dragon Bones (The Hurog Duology, Book 1) by Patricia Briggs - I've read her entire Mercy Thompson series, but had never gotten around to any others of hers, so I grabbed this one from the library. And I like it. I like Briggs' writing style. It isn't exactly humorous - well, the Mercy Thompson books have plenty of humor, but that's not their main raison - but it is wry. Most of the characters have a good sense of the fact that so much of what they have to do is ridiculous, and that life is an awful lot of trouble, and that other people are usually inexplicable. Our hero, accompanied by the family ghost, gives up his fortress/leadership of the clan because he can clearly see that no physical castle is worth as much as saving the lives of his people. There are plenty of plot twists that I'm not going to give away. I'll just say, I found the premise - the last set of bones of an extinct race of dragons is buried under the keep of the Hurog - to be carried out well, and I really liked the characters. Ward does what he has to, to make sure his father doesn't kill him, and then has to figure out a way to get out of the hole he's dug for himself after his father dies. He has siblings, and cousins, and faithful followers, and not-so-faithful members of his band of misfits, and he has the aforementioned family ghost. Keep an eye on the ghost. Some particular things I liked about this book, as specifically pertains to fantasy: first, there's not /that/ much magic in it - there's a lot going on that's people interacting, not magical things happening. And the magic seems to follow a reasonable set of rules; there aren't new magical things popping up every few pages just to solve problems or just to give our hero something to kill, as happens in far too many fantasies. There are the dragons, and there are mages, some with more magical abilities than others, and that's about it. The rest of it's real people, doing what real people in feudal societies do, and frankly, when magic comes messing with their lives, they aren't all that enthused about it - it's usually more trouble to people than it is a help. And yes, that has some parallels to Game of Thrones, such as the line that the series is named after. In fact, if you liked Game of Thrones but would prefer to read something with far fewer gory deaths and far fewer pages, you could do far worse than this. It's got the hardworking people of the north, and the king in the south who maybe shouldn't be king, and some other similarities, but all in a normal-sized volume and with not one single toilet disemboweling. I plan on reading the sequel, and on finding more of Patricia Briggs, because I like her voice.
I think that completes for this year; I probably won't have time for another quest, as there is real stuff I should be doing. Maybe next year.