The Mad Reviewer’s 2013 Holiday Book Buying Guide (Part Two)

(For part one, please see here.)

In part one of my annual book buying guide I covered fantasy, speculative fiction and science fiction books.  But I left quite a few genres out, so I’m covering as many as I can here in part two.  After all, not everyone likes the first three genres.


Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray1.  Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

I was initially a little skeptical of yet another Cleopatra Selene book, but this one definitely surpassed my expectations.  With some elements of fantasy mixed in with well-researched historical fact, you can’t go wrong with Lily of the Nile.  It also helps that Stephanie Dray has a captivating writing style.  Because of that, you really do feel like you’re right there along with the characters, both in Egypt in the beginning and Rome for the rest of the novel.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers2.  Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy is technically alternate history because it takes place in an alternative version of the Middle Ages.  It has an awesome heroine who falls in love at a natural pace and one of the most endearing, realistic relationships out there.  This is YA at its best, believe me.  And this is coming from someone who’s growing weary of old YA tropes.  You also can’t go wrong with an assassin story combined with some pretty intense palace intrigue.

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland3.  The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland

I never really thought about Josephine Bonaparte until I read Sandra Gulland’s amazing Josephine B. trilogy.  She really did have an incredible life and was a fascinating woman of the time.  If you’re into new takes on history, I can’t recommend the trilogy enough.  Even if you just read the first book, I can almost guarantee you’ll be sucked in by Sandra Gulland’s spell.  Her writing really does make you feel like you’re alongside Josephine, thus making her more sympathetic than history books portray her as.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough4.  The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

If you’re like me and like really, really long books with amazing characters and new takes on history you won’t regret investing your time in this book.  Colleen McCullough is an amazing writer and she brings to life towering historical figures like Julius Caesar, Gaius Marius and Cornelius Sulla.  Even if you don’t like Roman history in general, you can’t go wrong with her award-winning series.  Like I said, this book is really long but it’s more than worth it.  The characters are just amazing and McCullough has certainly done her research here.

The Skystone by Jack Whyte5.  The Skystone by Jack Whyte

A new take on Arthurian legends that blends history and magic.  What more can I say but buy this right now?  You’ll fall in love with Publius Varrus just like I did and then you’ll never want the series to end.  He’s not really a character that I expected to like in the beginning but Jack Whyte makes him so compelling that you can’t help but love him.  He grows so much over the course of this novel and I really did appreciate all the effort that was put into creating an accurate post-Roman Britain on Jack Whyte’s part.  It makes the whole Arthurian legend come vividly to life.


Starlet's Web by Carla J. Hanna1.  Starlet’s Web by Carla J. Hanna

This is an unusual take on the dark side of Hollywood by indie author Carla J. Hanna.  Lia Marie, the main character, is absolutely far from perfect but you can’t help but love her as she struggles to find and maintain her identity.  It’s a sort of morality tale, but you never really get the feeling you’re being preached to, so I highly recommend it.  And it’s definitely different from the usual sort of romance stories aimed at teens.  Like real teens, Lia struggles with body image issues and confidence issues aggravated by the fact that her acting career took off when she was so young.  It’s a very easy story to relate to, even if you aren’t a teen.

Spinning Gold by Vivi Andrews2.  Spinning Gold by Vivi Andrews

Lots of fairytale retellings can go so wrong, but this new take on Rumpelstiltskin was fantastic!  Lots of romance, some awesome magic and a great heroine and you can’t go wrong with Spinning Gold.  Even if you’re like me and don’t like romance in general, you’ll love this one.  I never thought I’d say that about a Rumpelstiltskin re-telling, but it’s true.  Vivi Andrews added a lot more depth to the original story and created a whole new world for the story to take place in.

The Scourge by A. G. Henley3.  The Scourge by A. G. Henley

Romance with zombies!  Zombies that are unique and all the more terrifying for the secret we learn about them two thirds of the way through the book.  Forbidden but realistic romance, zombies and a main character with a very unique disability (blindness) all make A. G. Henley’s debut one of my favourite novels of the year.  The mega plot twist about two thirds of the way through makes The Scourge stand out quite a bit but it’s really the characters that made me fall in love with this book.

Éire's Captive Moon by Sandi Layne4.  Éire’s Captive Moon by Sandi Layne

This is more of an historical romance, but the romance eventually becomes the main focus of the story as the novel goes on.  It’s really the focus of the second book in the series, but if you like romance you’ll love this one just the same.  This is an independently published novel but there were so few mistakes that you would never know.  The main character Charis is incredible and the ending will certainly surprise you at first but in hindsight it’s completely in keeping with Charis’ character.

Cameron's Law by Mia Darien5.  Cameron’s Law by Mia Darien

Now here is a protagonist that I love!  I had some doubts about Sadie initially, but she’s the sort of snarky but smart character that I can’t help but love.  She knows what she wants for the most part and doesn’t mess around in love.  Mia Darien’s world of Adelheid is also incredible, taking place in a world where supernaturals are recognized as citizens with full rights.  Adelheid is just one of the communities on the forefront of the battle for supernatural acceptance and trust me when I say that not everything there is as it seems.


Opera A to Z; A Beginner's Guide to Opera by Liddy Lindsay1.  Opera A to Z: A Beginner’s Guide to Opera by Liddy Lindsay

If you haven’t really thought much about opera, this is definitely a good introduction.  Liddy Lindsay explains everything in easy-to-understand language without being condescending and gives you a little sampler of operas from Carmen to Salome.  Considering you can watch full operas free online you can’t go wrong with buying this handy little guide.  And if you happen to own opera DVDs but have never really mustered up the desire to try watching one, Liddy Lindsay’s guide is a great idea to get you excited about opera!  It got me fairly excited about opera and I’m an old hat in the genre.

Sliding on the Snow Stone by Andy Szpuk2.  Sliding on the Snow Stone by Andy Szpuk

I loved this book so much that I passed it on to the rest of my family and now it’s making rounds all over Canada to our extended family and friends.  This is the story of how one man survived the horrors of the Holodomor only to be thrust into an awful new life where nothing is certain.  Andy Szpuk writes his father’s memoirs in a brutally honest way and you can’t help but love the story all the more for it.  The Holodomor isn’t really something you hear about in the mainstream media unless there’s a particularly in-depth discussion on Stalin’s policies and I think this book is a real eye-opener.

The Curse of Malenfer Manor by Iain McChesney3.  The Curse of Malenfer Manor by Iain McChesney

Romance, ghosts, heiresses and war all make The Curse of Malenfer Manor a fascinating novel, but what really puts this one on my list is how authentic the book is.  It really does feel like you’re in the early 1900s in France and that’s the true strength of Iain McChesney’s writing.  His attention to detail is amazing and the historical accuracy in this novel is scary.  He even writes like an author from the time, giving a very authentic aura to all of the descriptions.

Accursed Women by Luciana Cavallaro4.  Accursed Women by Luciana Cavallaro

Accursed Women is a collection of 5 short stories by Luciana Cavallaro about infamous women in Greek myths.  She covers everyone from Helen of Troy to Medusa and does it in exciting ways that are all different.  The stories never get repetitive and they are so well-researched you get sucked right into the world of these incredible women.  Even if you absolutely hate some of the main characters, you’ll still be interested in their stories.

Dark Genesis by A. D. Koboah5.  Dark Genesis by A. D. Koboah

This is definitely a non-traditional vampire story in that it takes place back in time but also in the viewpoint of someone who isn’t normally represented in literature: a female slave on a plantation.  Luna has such an unique perspective that you can’t help but love her and A. D. Koboah is one of the best writers on this list.  The haunting descriptions of Luna’s world, the romance and the backstory all make Dark Genesis one of my favourite books of all time.

Well folks, that’s all for my book buying guide for 2013.  Did you see anything you like?  Or perhaps did you see some of your own favourites on here?


  1. cav12

    You have touched on my favourite genre! There are a few books you’ve listed I need to read. I am soooooo behind in my reading.

    Carrie, thank you for adding my book, so honoured to be a part of such an exclusive list 😀

  2. literaryvittles

    there really is something for everyone here! As for me, I’ll be taking a look at “Sliding on the Snow Stone.” thanks for pulling this whole guide together, I know it took some serious work!

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