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Smugglivus 2014 Guest Author (& giveaway): Stephanie Burgis

Welcome to Smugglivus 2014! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2014, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2015, and more.

Who: Stephanie Burgis, one of Thea’s favourite writers, author of the Kat Incorrigible series. Thea loved and reviewed the latest book in the series, Courting Magic over at Kirkus.

stephanie-burgis-2-small-color Courting Magic

Please give a warm welcome to Stephanie, everyone!

Happy Smugglivus! This has been such a great reading year for me, it was really, really hard to limit my choices for this entry to just five (with a little bit of cheating, as you’ll see). But, after a long struggle (fueled by chocolate), here are my five top choices for the year, with apologies to all the wonderful books that I had to leave off the list:

Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad

Spirits Abroad

This was a great year for short story collections, but my very favorite was this one, full of sly wit, joyous humor, bickering dead aunts, arrogant dragons, overprotective vampire relatives, bittersweet romance and much more. It usually takes me weeks or months to read a short story collection by a single author, because I need to take breaks in between each story. This one, though, I devoured in just a few nights, because I was having far too much fun to stop. Some of the stories were hilarious, a couple were genuinely terrifying, and almost all of them were just wonderful. Highly, highly recommended! (And personally, I’d suggest going for the ebook version, because it includes extra stories.)

Jenn Reese’s Horizon


Horizon is the third book in Jenn Reese’s epic MG trilogy Above World. This has been one of my favorite MG series ever since I read the first book, but Horizon is without a doubt my very favorite book of the trilogy. It’s time for the final showdown, and of course that means it’s full of exciting, vividly written action scenes and the real sense of wonder that’s filled every book in this trilogy – but more importantly, this book is where all of the trilogy’s big themes of diversity and compassion and hard choices really come together in a beautiful way.

Aluna, the warrior, has to finally go back and face the family she left behind under the sea, fighting to convince them to join with the world’s other genetically engineered races instead of choosing seclusion, suspicion and isolation. But the even harder challenge, for her, is her battle to make her family accept her for who she really is, not who they want her to be.

Callie, the sweet, nerdy Aviar who fled her own warrior background, has to learn to be a leader herself…but that might mean sacrificing everything else she’s fought for. Hoku, the sweet, geeky tech guy of the group, has to make one of the hardest choices of all. And all of the heroes have to finally come to understand that the frightening Upgraders who form an army for their greatest enemy are just as human and vulnerable as they are, too.

This book is a hugely emotional, overwhelming, exciting, and uplifting end to the trilogy, and I loved it.

Tessa Gratton’s The Weight of Stars

weight of stars

Tessa Gratton’s U.S. of Asgard books form a fiercely intelligent, gritty and emotional series of fantasies for teens, set in an alternate version of America where the Norse gods are real parts of everyday life. The worldbuilding is fantastic, the mythology is worked seamlessly into the storylines, and the characters are all vivid and compelling. Book Two in the series, The Strange Maid, came out this year, and really, I had been planning to put that on this list, just like I put Book One on my list last year. But then…

…Well, then I read this collection of Gratton’s three U.S. of Asgard novellas, The Weight of Stars, and I fell so head over heels in love with it, I absolutely had to include it here instead. All three of the novellas included are smart and snarky, emotional and intense, full of fierce girls and wild magic. They would work just fine as standalone pieces whether or not you’ve ever read the novels (although of course I recommend the novels really highly, too). Each novella has a very different emotional tone, and every one of them is fantastic.

My very favorite of the three, though, was the second one, Lady Berserk. How could it not be? It’s a fun, witty romance where the unreliable trickster god Loki himself is the romantic hero (but does not get any free passes because his godhood from the very, very awesome berserker heroine). Now, come on, admit it. How could that not be the most fun? (Well, maybe it wouldn’t have been if it had been done badly. But trust me: Gratton does it really, really well.)

Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series

The Chocolate Thief

A series of contemporary romances for adults, set in Parisian chocolateries – these books are every bit as delicious as they sound, and to me (a chocolate addict who loves European travel), that is saying an awful lot! I finally discovered Laura Florand’s books this year, and since then, I’ve not only devoured every novel and novella that she’s written, but I’ve also re-read many of them already. They’re full of mouth-watering descriptions of desserts, warmth and humor, along with fun, hot romance. Not only do they all fit neatly on my virtual Comfort Books shelf, but they also offer enough variety for a wide range of tastes.

Her first book, The Chocolate Thief, is a fast-paced, funny, battle-of-the-sexes rom-com with some hilarious one-liners. Her second book, The Chocolate Kiss, is a dreamy novel of magical realism (based, of course, around chocolate), with a sweet romance thrown in. Her third book, The Chocolate Touch, is an intensely emotional, passionate romance…that also manages to address the important ethical issues behind chocolate production in a completely non-didactic way.

And so on! If you try one Laura Florand story and it doesn’t work for you, do try another – you might well be surprised. (And, with just a couple of recent exceptions, they all work just fine when read out-of-order.)

As for me, I love them all.

V.E. Schwab’s Vicious


I really didn’t plan to read this book – and I certainly never expected to like it. I saw pictures of both the US and UK covers, neither of which appealed to me. I read the online description – two best friends develop super-powers and become bitter enemies – and shrugged. Honestly, apart from the Avengers movies, I’m just not a fan of superhero/supervillain stories, in general, and I usually prefer there to be at least one strong female protagonist in any book I read (something that wasn’t promised in any of the book’s descriptions). Clearly, this one just wasn’t going to be for me.


I was in the Waterstones in Cardiff when I spotted it sitting on the shelf. Just out of curiosity, I picked it up to read the first page or so…and got completely sucked in. I bought it five minutes later, and then read it obsessively until it was finished. I loved it. Vicious was utterly absorbing, with some of the most compelling characters (both male and female) that I’ve ever read, and with some of the most beautiful writing, too. I could barely stand to put it down until it was finished. Ever since I read it, I’ve recommended it again and again to other readers – but I’ve never loaned out my own copy. I love it too much to let it slip away!

What about you guys? Have you been surprised by any of your own favorite books this year?

Giveaway details


Courtesy of the author, we are giving away a Kat package designed by Sally Jane Thompson. It includes a Kat mug (Kat drinking hot chocolate!), a hot chocolate recipe, and a Kat-drinking-hot-chocolate mini sketch by Sally. The giveaway is open until Dec 27 12:01AM EST. Use the form below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Kendra
    December 23, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I finally got around to reading the Grisha trilogy this year after hearing so many mixed reviews. I absolutely loved them! I also (unsurprisingly) loved Courting Magic. Stephanie, as long as you keep writing stories about Kat, I’ll keep buying them!

  • Axie
    December 23, 2014 at 1:16 am

    I immediately put the Kat, Incorrigible series on my wishlist, after reading Jim of Ya Yeah Yeah’s Smugglivus post (3 fun MG books & a YA novella? Count me in).

    I haven’t read any of the books on this list. Lucky me! Excited to read all of these in 2015. I checked out your 2013 post, and it’s cool to see sequels appear here in 2014.

    Happy Smugglivus! 🙂

  • Nikki Egerton
    December 23, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Vicious has gone on my ‘buy immediately’ list, so thank you for that 🙂

  • Kate Hannigan
    December 23, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Hooray for Kat and all the many titles in this series! I’ve loved that girl for years! Can’t get enough. And now a MUG!? I swoon! I’m adding Vicious to my to-read list, as well as The Chocolate Thief. Both sound terrific. Great to read your post, Stephanie!

  • Stephanie Burgis
    December 23, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Thanks so much, Kendra and Kate, for the lovely Kat feedback! 🙂 And I hope you guys all enjoy the books on this list!

  • Stephanie Burgis
    December 23, 2014 at 8:55 am

    (And Axie, I really hope you enjoy the Kat books! Thanks so much for letting me know that they’ve gone on your wishlist.)

  • Gerd D.
    December 23, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Have I been surprised by a favourite book this year?
    I guess, in a way.
    I traded the “Rosie-Project” (didn’t like) against “Ruby Red” by Kerstin Gier, which I found I loved. I immediately went and got the other two books after reading “Ruby Red”.

  • Lisa Mantchev
    December 23, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Wonderful list (and all ones I want to read in the new year!)

  • Jason B
    December 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

    And just like that, my “to read” list gets that much longer!

    This year’s surprise like was Lauren Oliver’s Rooms – I’m not usually a fan of ghost stories, but this one’s really grabbing me.

  • Mary Anne
    December 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I was surprised by “The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison. I had read her series (“The Virtu” was one of them) written under the name Sarah Monette, and the two books she coauthored with Elizabeth Bear. All of those were very awesome books, but definitely a little more angsty and dark. The Goblin Emperor was just plain wonderful, but so much brighter, even though it dealt with power, and betrayal and abuse and so many potentially doom-ridden themes.

    Loved the Kat novella you released this year. Love your books, period. What’s next?

  • JenP
    December 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been meaning to check out the Above World books!

  • Kirsten!
    December 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    i was surprised by how much I liked Vicious too- and for the same reasons as you 🙂
    I was also pleasantly surprised by In the Clothes Called Fat.

  • Estara Swanberg
    December 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Such a gracious gift. I really need to check out that United States of Asgard series…

  • Estara Swanberg
    December 23, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Pertaining to the actual question: I did not think that a scientist heroine in a secondary world fantasy romance would be able to use her science to basically uncover the mysteries between certain fae developments in her worlds and make informed decisions – I’ve never read a series like that before. It has drawbacks – not much female friendship in the first book and she’s a special one (but it’s explained why at the end) and there’s triggery mental abuse in the first one, which also makes sense and is explored afterwards, but really… Jeffe Kennedy’s Covenant of Thorn series for Carina Press was probably my most surprising read this year.

  • Torsten
    December 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I’m excited!

  • Lori
    December 23, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    I knew I was going to like The Night Circus based on the description of it, but once I started reading it I fell in such love with it that I am already sad to know that it will end and I haven’t even finished reading it. Why can’t there be more books about it? More importantly: WHY ISN’T THIS A REAL CIRCUS I CAN GO TO RIGHT NOW? It surprised me just how much I adore this book.

  • Stephanie Burgis
    December 24, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Ooh, I’m loving hearing about all these surprise-love books! I’m adding them all to my own TBR list.

    And Mary Anne, I’m so glad you enjoyed the Kat novella. I actually JUST today announced the next book – a historical fantasy novel for adults! You can read about it here.

  • Mary Preston
    December 24, 2014 at 2:46 am

    I was surprised by how much THE BOOK THIEF appealed to me.

  • Joni Patterson
    December 24, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Hey, Stephanie! I love your charming-magical Kat books! (Though I still have to read “Courting Magic”… I’m excited to see how her character has grown!)
    These are some interesting suggestions that I might have to look into. I probably don’t branch out quite as much as I should when it comes to choosing books. Maybe stepping out of my regular genres could be a goal for this next year?
    Thanks for the giveaway! The mug looks adorably fun! ^^

  • Daiane
    December 24, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Yes definitely! YA released books always catches my suprise 🙂

  • Jessica Ho
    December 25, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Some of my favourite books this year have been Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic” and “When the Emperor was Divine”. I didn’t expect to like them because I’ve never really liked Asian American fiction or historical fiction. But this year I’ve been liking them a lot. Thanks to Julie Otsuka for getting me started on Asian American fiction and historical fiction!

  • Stephanie Burgis
    December 25, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I love all of these recs! And Joni, thanks so much for saying such lovely things about the Kat books. I hope you enjoy Courting Magic!

  • Wolf Bogacz
    December 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Very interesting group of books for the sweepstakes.

  • Katy K.
    December 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I also really enjoyed The Goblin Emperor. Other favorites this year have been The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell, everything I’ve read by Kate Milford (nearly everything) and the Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas. I just read the Above World Trilogy this month and loved it! And I really, really enjoyed Courting Magic.

  • Katy K.
    December 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    And going back to the most surprising book I liked – I think The Swallow, by Charis Cotter – ghost stories are not normally my thing, but this one really got to me.

  • 1110cg
    December 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I am surprised by how much I enjoyed The Feminine Mystique.

  • Stephanie Burgis
    December 27, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Katy, I just started reading Goblin Emperor this morning, and I am LOVING it! And thanks so much for the nice feedback on Courting Magic.

    1110cg, I really liked The Feminine Mystique too! I read it in my American Women’s History course in undergrad, using my grandmother’s copy, which she’d passed on to my mom and my mom passed on to me. I was amazed by how relevant so much of it still was.

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