The other day I came across this survey from the Perpetual Page Turner, and I thought it sounded like a great way to sum up my reading achievements for the year. There’s a second part heading your way next week, so stay tuned!
Best Book You Read in 2013. If you need to cheat you can break this down by genre.
There are many, but all are mentioned at some point in this post so for now I’ll just talk about:
Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold
After twenty years of marriage Chloe comes home to find that her husband Nate has left her with nothing but a cryptic note, telling her he’s returned to their home town, the place they’ve been avoiding for the past two decades. While waiting for him to get in contact, she comes across a notebook of his, written in a code they made up when they were children. From this point, we’re told their story from two perspectives – through Chloe’s recollections as an adult, and Nate’s diary entries. Each memory is triggered by the mention of a book they’d read together at a significant point in their relationship… it’s hard to tell which they loved more, books or each other! The fact that Nate’s diary is written in code foreshadows the suspense that is built later. Arnold increases the sense of mystery consistently throughout while dealing with a boat load of ‘issues’ – from teen pregnancy, to abortion, to abortion, religious fervour, murder, adultery, terminal illness… All surrounded by the air of an unnamed evil getting closer and closer. Book of Secrets was a subtly crafted, heart wrenching pleasure to read, and I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.
Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t.
Little Beauty by Alison Jameson
From the blurb of this book I was expecting a light-hearted Maeve Binchy-esque treat, and that’s very much the way it started… but before long I was faced with frustrating characters, unappealing plot twists, pointless sadness and a general air of disbelief. The writing itself is great, but I just didn’t like the story.
Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2013.
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
I used to avoid non-fiction (specifically memoirs), but reading Escape was like a turning point… since then I’ve been much more open to reading memoirs. Some (like What Falls Away) have been amazing, others (Teaching the Pig to Dance) not so much, either way, I’m glad I’ve given a different genre a chance!
Book You Read in 2013 That You Recommended to People Most.
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
This book kicked ass. I don’t remember a time when I’ve been faced with a collection of character so real, so vivid and so flawed. The story was gripping, and surprising, and emotional… I’ve recommended it to everyone who’ll listen to me on Twitter, to anyone who dares talk to me at the pub, and I’ve even bought a couple of copies for friends. I think really I just wanted someone to talk about it with me!
Best Series You Discovered in 2013.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I hate that everyone was so right about The Hunger Games – I usually like to avoid the books that everyone raves about… but these were fantastic. I read the lot over the course of three days (and then got upset that I’d finished them so quickly) I can’t wait to go see Catching Fire at the cinema!
Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2013.
Isabel Allende – she wrote two of the books I’ve loved this year, Island Beneath the Sea and Zorro. To be honest, I’m not sure if I first picked up Zorro because I saw that she’d written it or because I adored the film… and I’m really, really glad the book didn’t try to deal with the same areas of the plot that the movie did. It took me quite a while to read, but it was so much fun… I’m a sucker for the swashbuckling adventure!
Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre For You.
Mother’s Curse and Daughter’s Justice by Thaddeus Nowak
When I was little I used to love fantasy, but I’ve definitely stepped away from it recently. I really enjoyed getting back into the genre (and I can’t wait for the third installment of the series!)
Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2013.
The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro
I think we all know that I’m a big fan of crime novels, and this one was FAB. It’s been a while since I discovered a new mystery writer that I loved, but this one was electric. Disturbing at times, but electric.
Book You Read in 2013 That You’re Most Likely to Reread Again Next Year.
Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
Written by my favourite Gilmore Girl, I knew I was going to love it. It was just the kind of book that I could read over and over – check out my review for more information.
Favourite Cover of A Book You Read in 2013.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
I have a bit of a thing for the colour grey, and I just live the quirky, doodled effect. It was a hard choice though (because I judge most books by their covers!)
This is actually the book I’m in the middle of reading at the moment (does it still count?) I’m really enjoying it so far… I’m a big fan of retellings, and this one is a reinterpretation of the legend of Odysseus, told from the perspective of his faithful wife Penelope and her twelve hanged maids.
Most Memorable Character in 2013.
Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore
You can just tell from the title that this has to be amazing… and the characters in it were just… indescribable. It took some thinking to pick a favourite, Tuck the playboy pilot came close, as did the cross-dressing navigator with a talking bat… but nobody could surpass Beth Curtis, the ex-stripper, current Stepford wife and part-time Goddess. Pure genius.
Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2013.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This magical realist novel has to be one of the most breathtaking books I’ve ever read. Everything is described so spectacularly that it seems to appear before your eyes. It is not merely a beautifully written story, with beautifully vivid characters, but it showcases a beautiful (if dangerous) world. We get to be part of the most beautifully tragic love story, while being let into the truly beautiful Circus of Dreams…. the whole book is just a big load of beautiful!
Book That Had the Greatest Impact On You in 2013.
Germinal by Emile Zola
It seems like such a long time since I read this, but it wasn’t even a year ago… It was one of my set books for AA316, and it’s quite hard to explain why it had such an impact… A lot of the ‘classics’ I’ve read have been good, but didn’t incite any particularly strong emotional responses… Germinal, on the other hand, was so deliciously dark, and grim, and tragic that it sparked a whole new appreciation for those dusty volumes stacked at the back of my bookcase. the best part? It’s part of a twenty volume series!
Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2013 To Finally Read.
Hmmm… probably The Hunger Games trilogy again… they really were so good! Although, having said that, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it at the same time as the rest of the world. The endless gushing I hear from everyone reduces the pleasure I get from reading.
Favourite Passage or Quote From a Book You Read in 2013.
I don’t really have one… I’m not really one for picking out quotes from the books I read (unless they’re set books of course). However, I did really enjoy a lot of the very poetic passages from The Awakening, for example :
“The voice of the sea is seductive; never-ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.”
Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2013.
Robber Bride (528 pages) by Margaret Atwood
This book took me forever to read… partially because of the length, but also because it wasn’t particularly fast paced or compelling. The characters were very well designed, and three-dimensional, but they were all pretty hard to like. The narrative is peppered with beautiful, well-crafted phrases, but the story was just illogical; I couldn’t understand any of the characters’ motivations at all. I really, really, really wanted to love it, but I just felt there was something missing…
Bones in Her Pocket (64 pages) by Kathy Reichs
This was a teeny, tiny, straight to e-book short story from the Tempe Brennan series (which I love).
Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
The Hunger Games was absolutely full of these moments, and What Falls Away had me ranting about the evils of men, but I think the book with the single most OH MY GAAAD moment had to be Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie. Read it then we’ll talk.
Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke
This was a book filled with great relationships – some inspiring, some maddening… but I have no idea which was my favourite, Mia and Katie? Katie and Finn? Finn and Mia? They were all pretty kick-ass!
Favourite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
I’ve loved every Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, they’re so easy to immerse yourself in… and it rarely takes more than a day to get through one. Safe Haven is probably my favourite one so far, it was touching and surprising, and the movie is on my Christmas list!
Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The quintessential romance from the Regency period infused with gossip, gowns and gentlefolk… To be honest, I only read this book because everyone kept pestering me to – if I had 5p for every person who describes it as the best book ever written I could probably buy another house. I liked the plot of the actual story, but then my love of Bride and Prejudice (the Bollywood adaptation) could probably have told you that! I also really enjoyed the character of Mr Bennett, he was so wry… he just reminds me of my Grandad! However, I thought the style of writing was quite convoluted (and not just in a ‘it was written hundreds of years ago’ kind of way). I didn’t think it was a particularly compelling story, certainly not compelling enough to be described as the best ever! I also thought most of the characters were quite superficial, I don’t mean frivolous (although they were); I just thought they could have been developed a lot more.
Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
That would have to be non-fiction! Non Fic November is definitely partly to blame, but I also read quite a few memoirs earlier in the year…
Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Well Diego de la Vega (from Zorro) is my favourite rebel-hero EVER, but I’ve loved him ever since he was Anthony Hopkins, so technically he’s not a new fictional crush… A very close second would be Charlie from The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud (because who doesn’t love a tortured loner), with Finn from The Sea Sisters as an even closer third (because he’s just lovely. And tall.)
Best 2013 debut you read?
The Biscuit Witch by Deborah Smith
Despite my preference for longer books, I really enjoyed this novella, and as the first of three installments there’s plenty more good stuff to come!
Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing
After reading it, I found out that Circus of Ghosts is actually sequel of The Mesmerist (which I have since added to my collection). Ewing creates a vivid, magical snapshot of turn of the century New York (with a sprinkling of decadence from Silas P. Swift’s extraordinary circus)… the characters are totally eccentric, and totally loveable (apart from those dastardly baddies of course!). The balance of humour, mystery and heartache is just perfect… you really can’t help but get invested!
Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
Bossypants by Tina Fey. Enough said.
Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
I’m not really a big crier, but there are quite a few that may have provoked a tear or two this year… The Sea Sisters, Becoming Indigo, The Hunger Games, The Sweetest Hallelujah and Charlie St Cloud were probably the main ones. Don’t tell anyone.
Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Natural Causes by James Oswald
This book was part of the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club List, and in my opinion it was one of the best. However, it seemed to be missing from any ads that were around at the time, and I couldn’t even find a copy at WHSmiths or my local library!
If you fancy playing along I’d love to hear your responses to these questions!
P.S. Will be link up to this week’s Book Chat, don’t forget to come check out the other entries!