Monday, December 30, 2013

Stand-Out Books of 2013!

It’s that time of year again!

You (hopefully) have your gift cards and holiday money clasped excitedly in your hand after last week’s festivities and you’re wondering: just what do you want to buy?

Well, books of course!

So, here I am with my fourth annual Stand-Out Books of the Year post – compiling my personal recommendations for your convenience.

Just as in every year – there are way too many good/great/excellent reads to list out – so I have picked just 35 novels that stood out to me as I look over the last year of reading. Even though a book may not be on here, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like/love it.

These are choices among the books I reviewed, not only read. Some books I read in 2013 aren’t going to have reviews post until 2014 – so I don’t want to confuse everything by including those in this year’s post.

Also, the books listed may or may not have actually been released in 2013 – I just read them in 2013.

My stats are down a little bit this year, but I did start working at a job that sadly I cannot read my day away at (great job, though). So here goes the numbers for 2013:

How many books did I read?

165

That's 25 less than in 2012.

How many pages did I read?

56,309

That's 5,648 less than in 2012.

How many pages, on average, did I read per day?

154

That's 16 pages less per day than in 2012.

Considering how crazy busy I've been this year, I wouldn't say that's too bad!

This year only 35 books made the cut for the Stand-Out Books of the Year. Yet again, there was a lot of painful, tear-ridden whittling to be done – but it’s one of the most exclusive lists yet! Get your Amazon.com clicking finger ready!!!

Remember you can click on each title to read a more in-depth review from yours truly.

Literary/Realistic Fiction:

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
A painful, genuine, beautiful portrayal of a teenage girl who has something terrible happen to her while away on a school ski trip – and keeps it a secret. It’s a moving, lovely story that resonated deeply and focuses on the psychological aspect of moving on.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Here is a bittersweet story of first love set in Australia. Each character is written in such a realistic manner as to sometimes be pathetic, sometimes be unlikable, but also be very sympathetic and understandable. I found it to be a compelling, and sometimes quite funny, read.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The sole reason I could not name this category “contemporary” fiction. An uplifting, exquisite, heartfelt tale of first love in the 1980s – and an insight into the life of a girl singled out by being different and the one boy who makes different feel special. Extraordinary, touching, and memorable.


Truth or Dare
by Jacqueline Green
Okay, this one stretches the description of “realistic” fiction – but, go with it okay? Among the campy Pretty Little Liars and series like it, I found Truth or Dare to have a refreshing, creepy spin. The characters didn’t feel dumb, the plot of someone essentially blackmailing these girls into performing terrible dares was suspenseful if a little crazy, and I truly enjoyed reading it. I am not ashamed to admit I’m excited for book two.

Since You Asked by Maureen Goo
Hilarious, fun, coming-of-age novel that tackles familial expectation amongst a strict Korean family and their all-too-American daughter. I had a ton of fun reading this one and secretly (okay, not so secretly) wish for a sequel as we follow the irreverent fifteen-year-old Holly Kim navigate her friendships and her strained mother-daughter relationship.

Dolled Up to Die by Lorena McCourtney
More of a mystery, but takes place in contemporary times!! The uproarious second book in the Cate Kinkaid Files, a murder mystery series that isn’t afraid to feature some great humor and sense of fun.

Historical Fantasy/Paranormal:

Glamour in Glass & Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
Improving upon the already delightful mix of Jane Austen-like Regency romance and naturalistic, every day magical abilities in Shades of Milk and Honey, these two follow-up novels in Kowal’s series were enough to make me squeal with love! Original plots, fantastic romance and characters, and a truly great fantasy that feels so grounded it could be real.

Starflower & Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
These two latest additions of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series are just as poetically written and lyrically sweeping as the prior books. In fact, I think they may be even better. Not taking place in any particular time period, they are more of a traditional fairy tale type of world – but with entirely new stories. Touching, suspenseful, and soaringly romantic – I look forward to more from this series!

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Oh my gosh. Do you want a hilarious, witty, clever novel that takes place in an alternate, steampunk Victorian England? How about following a smart young girl as she enters a finishing school that is actually teaching espionage in a giant dirigible? Um, yeah. If you’ve read the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, this is a must (I haven’t yet, but I’m planning on it), and if not, it’s still a must.

Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn
A gothic sequel-of-sorts to the original Frankenstein novel, this imagines that the famous doctor had twin daughters who return to his mansion in the Regency time period years after his death. There’s mystery, danger, and a whole lot of creepiness. I was impressed.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Stunning retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in (what do you know?) the Regency time period. Beautiful characterizations, a realistic tone, lovely period details, romance and a suspenseful story involving one of the more devious Grimm Brothers characters, but with more meat on its bones.

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan
1899 Paris opens the City of Light trilogy, which features sisters who have just recently moved to their new gothic, sprawling home surrounded by stone gargoyles. Gargoyles that may… come to life? A unique paranormal story with a fleshed out backstory, lots of attractive male characters (just being honest here), and a hook that has me ready for more.

Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel
Taking place in 1935, this second novel in the American Fairy trilogy cemented by belief that this is going to be an impressive, original trilogy. Grounding it’s tale in period details that illuminate the Depression-era and a heroine who is likable and different, the fairy elements manage to be quite frightening and nerve-wracking. There’s a level of surreal-ness that I very much appreciate. I am anticipating the final book more than I ever thought I would.

Contemporary Paranormal/Supernatural/Sci-Fi:

The Raven Boys & The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
I don’t know about you, but Maggie Stiefvater is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. These first two books in the Raven Cycle are hard to explain except to say they are AWESOME. Excellent, layered characters, a dark, magnetic plot, and a story I want to read over and over. I can’t even fully describe my love.

Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan
The final novel in the Immortal Beloved trilogy, I found it to be a satisfying, mature conclusion to what was an original, mature series. The dark, stark view it had on individuals who have lived far longer than their sanity can fully support? Talk about fascinating! It was a redemptive, inspiring, truly unusual paranormal novel.

In a Fix & Quick Fix by Linda Grimes
The first two books in an addictive, fun, laugh-out-loud urban fantasy series, these are entertaining reads. With a unique ability called being an Adapter, the heroine Ciel can “adapt” to any aura she wants, which she utilizes for her own atypical business. There’s also romance and a bit more, ahem, heat than I normally go for – but I have to overlook that when the remainder of both books are so delightful! Looking forward to more from this series.

Unspoken & Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!! Kami is one of the best female characters in contemporary literature, in my opinion. In fact, Brennan has penned a horde of colorful, three-dimensional characters in these first two books of the Lynburn Legacy. These novels combine a dark, scary supernatural storyline of magic and danger, a small English village, and characters that can be laugh-out-loud funny. Not to mention a romance that I feel is miles above most others. A MUST READ!!!

Fuse by Julianna Baggott
The Pure trilogy is wholly inventive, new, and striking as a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world of destruction and hope. Switching viewpoints from multiple fascinating characters and revealing superb twists while taking us on a nail-biting thrill ride; I am desperate for the final book in 2014. This is an epic story, for sure.

Every Day by David Levithan
Stunning, creative storyline involving “A” who wakes up each morning in a different body – no matter the gender. There’s a refreshing newness to this story, and a hopeful tone that is irrepressible. It also features a love story that is beyond general attraction. I will say there were a couple moments in the book that I felt were contradictory to the message and surprising in their lack of sensitivity, and an underlying preachiness that at times went a little too far. Yet the original plot and lovely writing alone earn this book a spot on the list.

Touched by Cyn Balog
Nick has had a “script” running in his head since he can remember. Essentially he is being narrated as to what to do every moment of every day. But when one day he veers off script and can’t restrain himself from saving another teen’s life, things begin to fall apart. This is such a unique novel that tells us a touching, twisty, revelatory story that I will not forget.

Amber House by Kelly More, Tucker Reed & Larkin Reed
Much more than a ghost story, this is packed, complex, gorgeously awesome first book in a projected trilogy. It goes to so many unexpected places, I can’t even elucidate. Bizarre, addictive, suspenseful, creepy and completely absorbing – you just need to read it, okay?!?

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
Golly, I was pulled in by this doozy! When I read this, I didn’t realize there were three prior books that all tie in together. Ahem, I have ordered them – we’ll leave that at that. Anywho, this book is hilarious, mysterious, inventive, fun, startling, surprisingly perceptive and overall amazing. Genres that don’t normally mix fruitfully mix here to create a novel of near perfection and cleverness.

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
I’m sure anyone who read Daughter of Smoke & Bone has already dived into this gem. But for those of you who have read neither, GET WITH IT! Let’s see, we’ve got a strong, smart female character, mythological beasts and angels that have been at war for millennia – and a star-crossed love story. But it’s so much more than that. I cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy, as it is a magnificently written, exceptional tale.

The Originals by Cat Patrick
Has it been every year almost that I’ve featured a book by Cat Patrick? Quite possibly. Yet again she has penned a reflective, intimate, addictive book involving mystery, danger, and identity issues involved with being one of three clones. It’s suspenseful, exciting, and touching. Excellent.

Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Featuring a Goodnight girl, relative to the heroine in Texas Gothic, Rosemary excels at writing funny, scary, smart contemporary paranormal. A feel of Nancy Drew mystery, involving romance, a supernatural ability and twists around every corner – I look forward to more from this author, as always.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
You like vampire books? Well, this is a whole new vampire book! Taking a different approach and telling a nail-biting story of survival amidst a vampire virus, we get to see a new type of vampire life behind enclosures designed for regular ol’ humans’ safety. What an original, can’t-stop-turning-the-pages novel!

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears by Kersten Hamilton
A fantastic, heart-wrenching, action-packed conclusion to the Goblin Wars trilogy. Irish mythology, fantastic characters, and a theme of friends and family that is irresistible – I can’t say much without giving stuff away. What I will say is that if you haven’t read this trilogy you are truly missing out. You should read it and then tell everyone you know about it. Capice?

Historical Fiction:

The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper
A memorable, heart-wrenching, gorgeous conclusion to the Montmaray Journals – about a fictitious European royal family displaced by the Nazi’s as World War II rages around them. This is an epic family story, romance, and character study. I was entranced from beginning to end. And though it is painful, it is beautiful.

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by Olivia Newport
As the second book in the Avenue of Dreams series, servant and single mother Charlotte is given the spotlight in this turn of the century Chicago setting. With a heartfelt, but not overly mushy, plot of a mother trying to make a living while being separated from her beloved son – it’s a novel that pulls at those heartstrings and doesn’t let go.

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Okay, this isn’t historical fiction in the traditional sense. But it does center on a kingdom at the brink of war, intrigue, and action-packed peril amidst a perhaps medieval-type setting. This is the second in the Ascendance Trilogy and is a gripping, intelligent, addictive second book. Very, very good.

Well, there you have it! 35 books to start 2014 off for you in bibliophile happiness!

As this New Year begins, you’ll notice that my blog will be featuring more old books mixed in with new releases. This is me getting back to my roots and exploring novels I missed in the past, or haven’t gotten a chance to get to until now. I hope you’ll enjoy this change as much as I plan to!

Just as I say every year – it gives me great joy to know you are out these reading this blog. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with it, and I know I have scaled back immensely on things like giveaways as my personal schedule lacks the accommodation to do such things – and I appreciate the fact that you’re still reading the Bibliophile Support Group even so.

It makes me believe that you truly just want to learn about books that are out these and want to join me in heralding them.

Have a fantastic New Year’s, and see you in 2014!!!

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