Favorite books read in 2013
Here goes, the best things I read out of last year’s 76 books.
“The Eyre Affair” “Lost in a Good Book” “The Well of Lost Plots” by Jasper Fforde:
Hands down favorite discovery of 2013. Delightful, whipcrack smart, very funny, clever, and some decent adventures, too. Literature cops, pet dodos, time travel, and alternate history hijinx. If you love literature and/or adventure, don’t miss the Thursday Next series. I can’t believe someone didn’t tell me about these before now. Glad to have finally found them.
“Angelmaker” by Nick Harkaway:
highly recommended. Maybe tied for absolute favorite with the Jasper Fforde series above. Best stand-along novel, for sure. Craziness, but in such a good way. It’s smart, full of adventure, great layering and storytelling, full of memorable scenes and characters. The Guardian called it a “fantasy-gangster-espionage-romance novel.” Honestly, the less known going in, the better. Ostensibly following the life of a British clockmaker whose father was a notorious gangster in the 70’s. But really, the plot is so much more, and also a framework to hang these delicious sentences and events upon. Grand in scale but never slow/hard to read. Adventure!
“Shipbreaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi:
I LOVED Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” so thought I’d see what he did with the young adult genre, instead. It’s powerful, concise, engaging storytelling. And I loves me some dystopian future novels.
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt:
flipping gorgeous. Achingly true portrait of sisters, coming-of-age, love, the early days of AIDS, life. Truly worth reading. And it’s a very easy read, too. Never weighty or self-important, the novel’s truths are revealed clearly and beautifully.
“The Raw Shark Texts” by Steven Hall:
Oof! What a ride. This novel is crazy, in a good way. It’s intense and sometimes will break your brain, but so worth it. Crazy-smart and sometimes just crazy, it’s an intellectual thriller.
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman:
lovely. Haunting. Gaiman’s typically great wordplay. Not as much fantasy as several of his works, but that really appealed to me right now.
“Stiff: The Curious lives of human cadavers” by Mary Roach:
Roach writes great pop-science. Fascinating, engaging, funny, and learning!
“Protector of the Small” series by Tamora Pierce:
Pierce is still the queen of young adult fantasy. Fun to discover there was another series set in the world established in the Alanna books (which had been a favorite when I was in junior high).
“The Language of Flowers” by Vaness Diffenbaugh:
great novel, framing the protagonists experiences (often with the harshness/ugly of the world, bouncing between foster homes and then trying to be an adult) with her love of flowers and their ascribed Victorian definitions. Interesting, fast read, some unexpected events. Felt real.
“Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman:
decent young adult fantasy story about medieval girl with a secret she must keep.
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn:
Not amazing literature, but very fast-paced and engrossing plot. It’s a satisfying page-turner, but doubtful it would stand up to re-reading.
“Adventures of Superhero Girl” by Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders:
lovely canadian superhero. She’s very real and this is a great collection.
Fluffy fantasy books that were decent, but not great:
Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” and it’s sequel. Intriguingly created world. There are a few stand-out moments, but it’s mostly decent, not great. (I know a few 12/13 yr olds who love them dearly, as they should, being the intended audience)
Karen Chance’s side trilogy (Midnight’s Daughter, Death’s Mistress, Fury’s Kiss) are way better than the main series. I mean, it’s still “urban fantasy” silliness, but these are much stronger/more interesting than the Cassandra Palmer series. Characters have some depth and real emotions.
Ilona Andrews’ “Magic Bites” series. I kind of hate myself for reading/enjoying these, as they are so clearly calculated to follow the “urban fantasy” formula and to sell quickly, rather than written out of a love for storytelling. And the speed with which they’re written/published (at least 1 per year, often 1 every 6 months) means there’s nothing really redeeming about the language/writing at all. But they are a fast engaging plot, you can finish each book in a day or two, and I did read all of them, so there it is.