Sunday, January 5, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

2013 is over! I can't tell you how happy that makes me. ;P Looking back at my reading statistics though, it was a very good year.

I read approximately 209 books during 2013, and among them found so many great books that choosing my top ten favorites became problematic. In the end I decided to disregard the publishing year and chose them from the most memorable books read and reviewed during the year (unfortunately, I read some books I loved, but did not review), rated A=5.0 and/or A-/B+=4.5. Once that decision was made, it became easier to sort them out. I still came up with more than ten. So, here they are, in no particular order, my favorite fifteen reads of 2013!*


1) Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews
Urban Fantasy (2013, Ace)
A cohesive and emotional read, Magic Rises is undoubtedly my favorite Urban Fantasy book of the year. At its core this is a transitional book, a bridge between the beginning of this fantastic UF series and changes to come, and it is most impressive that the quality in the writing and story telling does not wane one bit. Magic Rises is an excellent example of an exciting bridge book with character growth and a storyline that drives the overall story arc forward to the next level in a successfully established series. The fact that I fell in love with Kate, Curran and the rest of the characters all over again, and this writing team created a fantastic villain with depth, is beside the point. Hah!


2) Heart of Obsidian (Psy/Changeling #11) by Nalini Singh
SFF/Romance (2013, Berkeley)
One of the best installments in Nalini Singh's long Psy/Changeling paranormal romance series, Heart of Obsidian reads more like a sci-fi/fantasy romance piece. With this book, Singh drives forward the overall  story arc with scientific and fantasy details that make sense and are tightly woven with her world-building, and develops an unlikely, but believable romance despite the fact that the male protagonist is portrayed as a cold sociopath with psycho tendencies. That's talent.


3) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
SF/Fantasy (2013, William Morrow Books)
This fantasy piece is more of a fairy tale for adults. Gaiman tightly weaves in fantasy elements with adult subjects. Gaiman cleverly takes the distortion of childhood memory issue and by having the adult narrate terrifying, magically-driven events that occurred during his childhood, creates an unforgettable, multi-layered, fantasy piece.


4) Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Science Fiction (2012, Broad Rich Publishing)
Published in 2012, the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey is one of the best science fiction books I read in 2013! This is a captivating post-apocalyptic science fiction volume composed of five novellas from Howey's Wool series. Wool serves as the "hook" with subsequent novellas progressively going from great, to excellent, to outstanding. Memorable in and of itself is the oppressive, repressive, suffocating, and tension-filled atmosphere. This is a fantastic series that shouldn't be missed!


5) Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane #6) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance (2013, Grand Central Publishing)
With a stiff, guilt-ridden, duty bound, grief stricken duke as a hero whose perfect solution to past problems is to become a marauding vigilante, Hoyt meets the challenge by creating his match in Artemis, a passionate woman of character, strong enough to conquer and balance his flaws. Add to that a plot that moves and great secondary characters such as the intriguing Apollo and sweet Sophie, and this historical romance is worth a read or two. The Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt stays at the top of my historical romance list with this fabulous installment.


6) In Search Of and Others by Will Ludwigsen
Speculative Fiction Short Story Collection (2013, Lethe Press)
With some highly imaginative stories and a gorgeous writing style, Will Ludwigsen takes the reader for a fantastic ride while he explores the "what ifs" and "why nots," the unexplained and unexpected in his collection of speculative fiction stories In Search Of and Others. If, like me, you love well-done speculative fiction and short works that will make your mind soar into other planes that challenge the imagination, then you may appreciate and understand why this collection is such an unforgettable read.


7) Now or Never: A Last Chance Romance (Part 1) by Logan Belle
Contemporary Romance (2013, Moxie Books)
Now or Never is a novella, not a full-length novel. Additionally, it is Part 1 of a series so the romance is not complete. Yet, the depth of feeling conveyed by the female protagonist when faced with a devastating medical diagnosis, and the inadequacies and personal self-doubts that arise while she searches for sexual fulfillment after years of neglecting herself as a woman, made this a contemporary read that I fully connected with emotionally. Logan Belle is a writer whose works I've enjoyed in the past, and is fast becoming one whose work I will follow in the future.


8) The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh
Historical Romance (2013, Dell)
The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh is a classic of old. Re-released in 2013 by Dell, I'm pretty sure it will also become a new classic. In it, Balogh digs deep into the most unlikable of heroes, a man whose self-loathing is as deep as the sea, and the woman who can't see past his faults. Balogh's talents are in full display in this fabulous historical romance. If you're a fan don't miss it, if you haven't read Balogh yet, give it a try. :)


9) Written in Red: A Novel of the Others by Anne Bishop
Fantasy (2013, Roc)
Reading Written in Red by Anne Bishop felt like a breath of fresh air with loads of potential. Even with the few concerns that I harbored about the source of the heroine's powers, this book became one of my favorite fantasy (or if you prefer UF) reads of the year. Particularly impressive in this fantasy are the shifters and the world built around them, with characters that maintain their initial impact throughout the story and to the end. The second book of this series, Murder of Crows, is one of my most anticipated books of 2014!


10) Guardian Demon (Guardian Series #8) by Meljean Brook
Paranormal Romance (2013, Berkley)
The end of a series can be a sad time for fans of a series, but with Guardian Demon, Meljean Brook made the end to the Guardian Series a moment to celebrate. The romance section of this paranormal romance is slow in building and worth the wait. But the most impressive and enjoyable aspect of reading this book is the end to the overall story arc in which Brook ties up all the loose ends of this all around successful and complex paranormal romance series.


11) Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
Literary Fiction (2012, Douglas Gibson Books)
In this collection of short stories by Alice Munro some pieces spoke to me more than others, however, overall I found this to be a quiet, masterful, and memorable book where this author often wraps truth in fiction. She focuses her stories on pivotal but mundane moments that change people's lives. Some moments are depicted as harsh with a sense of distance about them, while others are intimate, personal, emotional. They are all valid. In some pieces, Munro also incorporates a subtle history of feminism that I personally appreciated, along with the last four biographical, very personal, short stories of the collection.


12) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Science Fiction (2010, Ace)
First published in 1969, The Left Hand of Darkness is considered a masterpiece and science fiction classic. The best science fiction novel I read in 2013, this is book #4 (also the first full length novel) in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle series. This is a complex story of a Terran who as an Ekumen mobile becomes the first Envoy to contact the Gethenians in their frozen planet, and his journey to understanding a radically different people and world. The result is a science fiction piece where Le Guin integrates this world's cultural and sociopolitical issues in detail, but at its core brilliantly focuses on the subject of gender and duality. A fantastic book that I won't soon forget!


13) The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
SF/Historical Fiction/Romance (2008, Allison & Busby)
In this book, Kearsley swept me away to 1708 and Scotland's failed Jacobite conflict as she incorporates three dimensional historical figures, historical facts, and a beautiful romance, while simultaneously taking me to a modern day Scotland where another couple finds happiness. In The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley creates a fusion of contemporary time travel with historical fiction and two romance story lines running parallel to each other. It may sound complicated, but her stories are written with attention to detail, authority, and flair!


14) The Favor by Megan Hart
Contemporary Fiction (2013, MIRA)
In The Favor, Megan Hart takes the talents for writing fiction that she so brilliantly incorporates in her successful erotic romances and ramps them up to create a memorable contemporary fiction piece. With a plot that challenges comfort zones, and flawed, deeply explored characters, this contemporary fiction piece showcases another facet of Hart's talents. A memorable read.


15) Looking for the Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco
Poetry (2012, University of Pittsburgh Press)
In Richard Blanco's multi-layered poetry volume Looking for the Gulf Motel I found an introspective, narrative style, as well as lyrical poems filled with nostalgia, grief, love and hope for the future, all progressively exploring his personal experiences as the gay son of an immigrant family, identity issues, and love. This volume touched and soothed me with its very intimate focus and easy connection with the reader.


* LGBT: 2013 Favorite Books and Authors list is posted separately (See full list here.)
2013: Favorite Quotes


19 comments:

  1. Looks like you read many awesome books this past year! I wish you an even better 2014 :D

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    1. Thank you Alex! I read some fantastic books in 2013. My list was long and extended. *g* I'm keeping my fingers crossed for 2014. ;P

      Wishing you the same!

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  2. As always, an interesting, eclectic list. I have recommended Wool to several people now. I need to catch up on the latest installments in that series. Wishing you all the best for 2014!

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    1. Phyl, I've also recommended Wool to friends and family, it's such a great read! And, I've had the latest installments in my Kindle since last year too but didn't get to them either. I hope they are as good.. :)

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  3. Now or Never also ended up on my "Best Of" list for 2013. I am so desperately looking forward to the next installment of that series.

    Sigh - I have both the Kearsley and Hart books in my TBR - because, you know, this is me and of course I'd have them in the TBR! I'm so grossly behind on Hart's books - it's shameful really.

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    1. Wendy, I'm with you, I can't wait for the next installment in Logan Belle's contemporary series. I wish it was here already!

      You're not the only one behind on Kearsley and Hart books. I have backlist books for both of them in my TBR that I really need to get to. Maybe for the TBR Challenge in 2014?!

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  4. Hilcia many paranormals in there...it's funny because overall from what I remember it wasn't the genre you reviewed the most..at least it seems that way! lol
    I'll copy this idea for my own favorite books of 2013 post, I hope you don't mind.
    I wish you a great year of excellent reads!!

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    1. Happy New Year Sonia!

      I've cut down severely on my PNR reads, but I kept two series (Psy/Changeling and Guardian Series), and love them both. This year, books from both series made it to my "favorite" list. The rest are SF/Fantasy-based, I read a lot more in that category, and from the other categories I love to read. I also had so many books I love that I didn't include LGBT with my reads this year -- they are in a separate post altogether.

      You can absolutely use this format. I'll look forward to reading your list of favorite books for 2013!

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  5. I think given you've read 209 books, you could go with a top 15 instead of a top 10 :)

    Magic Rises was good, I loved the story and all the action... What spoiled it for me though was the hiccup in Curran and Kate's relationship. Seriously, was it really necessary? Aren't we over that?! We all know that Curran and Kate are together and are a solid couple, but a simple thing like that was enough to rock the boat quite a bit... I don't know, it frustrated me and that's why Magic Rises didn't make it on my list of Favorites :( But still, such a good book :)

    Yay for Heart of Obsidian, double yay for Written in Red!!

    Wool Omnibus sounds really good and I seriously need to read Susanna Kearsley. Don't know how many times I can say this LOL.

    I'm sad that the Guardian series is over and even though Ms Brook managed to end it on a high, I feel the series should have been more. I blame the Iron Seas series for it!

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    1. Oh, thanks Nath! It's true though, the possibilities of reading good books goes up with quantity. *g*

      Yay! We have two books in common! (I loved your list of favorites at Breezing Through!) And yes, Omnibus is a great read! You should try that one, and at least one Kearsley book. Too bad that Magic Rises didn't quite work for you, but yes, agreed, it was a great book. :)

      I left out Kelly Armstrong's Omens because I had so many others to choose from, but that's another one I really enjoyed and I'm really anticipating Book 2. I don't remember if you liked it? And, please don't blame the Iron Seas series for the end of our Guardians!!! LOL! I'm planning a slow reread of the series.

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  6. Love your list, Hils - and I can't believe you managed to read 209 books in 2013. Impressive!

    Which were the books you loved but didn't review? Am curious now...

    Li

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    1. Ummm that was obviously me - sorry, posted using my Google Blogger account (didn't even realise I had one!!) as opposed to WP.

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    2. LOL! Now we both know!

      Okay, the books I left out that I would have included or at least considered for my list:
      1) Tenth of December by George Saunders -- Read in December and just reviewed yesterday. I loved that book! (Rated A-) I definitely would have included this one.

      2) Love Irresistibly by Julie James I really enjoyed earlier in the year and The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter I read in December! Both contemporary romances that I would have definitely considered.

      3) LGBT: The Padisah's Son and The Fox by Alex Jeffers and The Haunted Heart: Winter by Josh Lanyon -- another December read I really enjoyed. I would have considered both of these books.

      But, I can't really complain. I had to really juggle books from my A/B+ lists as it was and I made some tough decisions --ended up leaving out books that I loved or really enjoyed too! Wallbanger, Ashes of Honor, Psy/Cop Series by JCP, etc... I mean, I really read a lot of great books this year!

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    3. Hahaha - yes we do!

      Kelly Hunter! Yes, really liked her releases this year, fingers crossed for more in 2014.

      I don't think the Josh Lanyon worked as well for me as it did for you, but then again, I admit I have really high expectations when it comes to his writing.

      I'll have to check out the rest - thanks for even more recs ;-)

      Li

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    4. I read 3 contemporaries by Hunter and will read more in 2014. :D

      You know what I loved about The Haunted Heart: Winter? That it's more of a spec fic installment than straight mystery/romance -- and you know how much I love my speculative fiction. I think he did an excellent job of setting up that aspect of the story/series. I'm thinking that as the series moves along, though, the romance will take more of the center stage, and I like that the "love" is going to be developed in 4 volumes, not all at once.

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  7. Written in Red and Magic Rises were two of my favorites, as well. Murder of Crows comes out in less than 8 weeks -- can't wait!

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    1. Nifty, 8 weeks for Murder of Crows! I cant' wait!! I'm so glad that we don't have to wait half a year for this one. And yes on Magic Rises. Needless to say, the next book from the Kate Daniels series is another book I can't wait to read. Happy 2014 to you!

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  8. Great to see your favorite reads. Wool was my favorite read of 2012 and it remains one of my favorite science fiction reading experiences, period.

    I enjoyed Ocean at the End of the Lane and am not surprised that it has already won some awards. It will win more before the year is out, I have no doubt.

    I've liked the cover for Written in Red since the first time I saw it and the cover for the second book is great as well.

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    1. Carl, Agreed! Wool was a fantastic reading experience! I couldn't leave it out of my favorite reads list this year. And yes, I'm not surprised that Ocean at the End of the Lane has earned awards already. I really enjoyed it. It's one of those books that I will probably reread in the future.

      Written in Red's cover is quite attractive. The book is better. I'm really looking forward to the second installment to see if it lives up to expectations.

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