My Best Reads of 2013

Each year, I dread the coming of December 31st. No, it’s not the ending of another year, or the fact that I’m one year older. It’s the simple act of picking favorites! I have many, too many. So, as I’ve done before, I’m picking my favorites by month. It makes the list long but it’s the only way. This only way I tell you!

Let’s get this underway, shall we.

January

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: I love, love, love this series. If you haven’t read Rothfuss yet, you need to fix that in 2014.

Hellboy: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola: I seriously love Hellboy. I do.

February

Faithful Place by Tana French: Honestly, anytime this woman writes anything, I’m going to read it. She’s that good.

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft: My first foray into the world of Lovecraft and it was a success for me.

The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck: I went on an old school kick with vampires and loved it.

March

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell: I’m enjoying the series and need to pick it back up again in 2014 because a new book is coming out and I need to catch up. I’m too far behind for my liking.

Clockwork Phoenix 4 edited by Mike Allen: An amazing collection of speculative, fantasy, and science fiction by some master storytellers. I know I’ll be picking these stories up again and again.

April

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: What feels like a simple tale of everyday life is really a fantastic story full of the dreams that make life wonderful. Every part of this story feels very close to home thanks to some incredible characters.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: Mythical creatures trying to fit into 1880s New York City become of a reflection of the immigrants around them.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish: If you want new fantasy, this is the book for you. There’s a sequel coming and I can’t wait for it!

May

Advent by James Treadwell: I wasn’t so sure about this book but then I got to the end and immediately wanted more. I’ll be looking for the sequel next year.

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht: Oh. My. God. Seriously. It’s brutal and amazing. I want more and will be getting it.

The Black Country: A Novel of Scotland’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian: A cup of tea, this book, and a dark stormy night. All you need.

June

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson: A suspense filled historical mystery, and when you throw in a complicated relationship and some murder, you have a great story.

Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynne Jones: Why did I wait so long to read this!?

The Last Page by Anthony Huso: I have the second book and am holding off reading it. This book was so amazing that I’m afraid I set my expectations to high. I’ll soon see.

July

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Wow. Mr. Gaiman is the master. Every time I pick up one of his books I’m amazed by his ability; he weaves words like no other.

Kindred by Octavia Butler: Another why did I wait so long book. Amazing.

August

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon: I’m putting this on the list because it was a good first novel and I want more the crazy world she created. I think she’s going to grow with the second book.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin: I held off because I didn’t love the forth book as much as I wanted to but this one made up for all the wrongs of the last one.

Sabriel by Garth Nix: So, so good.

September

The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen: I admired the collection he put together in Clockwork Phoenix 4 and I was curious about his personal writing. He tells one dark, twisted, and amazingly satisfying story. I’m looking forward to his second book.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen: I didn’t think it was possible to be a bigger fan but Mrs. Poe did it for me. Lynn Cullen tells one entertaining and slightly dark story that is amazing to the last page.

October

This House is Haunted by John Boyne: All the creepy!

Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry: I didn’t get a chance to talk about this one at all this year but these tales were dark, depressing, and perfect reads for October.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison: I read this for a class on historical fiction and it was everything I expected and more.

November

The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: I’ve read a few of her books now and she’s one I’d recommend to people wanting interesting historical fiction.

The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katherine Green: An old school mystery worth a look.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: The third book in the Gentleman Bastards series and it was so worth the wait. If you aren’t familiar with the series, start with The Lies of Locke Lamora and you’ll soon find out why Lynch fans are so loyal.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane: A fictional characterization of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary. A sad story in many ways but I never felt sorry for the characters who were so feisty you wanted to see them fight to the bitter end.

December

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: A story of the afterlife told from the perspective of a not yet dead young woman faced with heartbreaking decisions. A truly fabulous story.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield: A long awaited book after The Thirteenth Tale which I absolutely loved. This was also a satisfying read.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle edited Michael West: The Little Red Reviewer reviewed this one and I immediately bought it and read it. It’s so marvelous and if you want your vampires to be, well, real vampires, this is for you. It’s a great collection.

The Descent by Alma Katsu: I’m cheating with this one a bit because I probably won’t finish it by the end of the year but I’ve been looking forward to the final book in this series for a long time. It officially comes out in January and if you’ve read the first two books, you’ll want to read this one too.

That’s all for 2013. Read anything good you want to share? I have a whole calendar to fill for 2014.

The Sunday Salon – Brain Candy

Early Saturday morning, I got off a redeye flight from Las Vegas. An hour after walking in my front door, I was asleep and was pretty much in that state all of yesterday. Sunday has been much the same with one exception — I’ve been watching Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet. It’s sick how addicting this show is! Seriously, someone come take the remote from me.

*Backing away from the TV now.*

Typically, the week I spend in Las Vegas is usually a very good week of reading for me. I can get in about 2 – 4 books depending on what I’m reading. I was prepared, as we readers are, with numerous choices in case my tastes changed somewhere mid-week. Unfortunately, I broke no records this year. I finished one book, a short story, and started two other books. Here’s the wrap-up:

A Crystal Age by W.H. Hudson — I downloaded this one from The Gutenberg Project a few weeks back in anticipation of this trip. It’s vintage science fiction and I was excited about this one simply because I have very little knowledge of science fiction from the early 50s and 60s. I wasn’t blown away but I did find it interesting. It falls into the anthropological category of science fiction with cultures trying to understand each other and the implications of those differences.

The Year of the Big Thaw by Marion Zimmer Bradley — This is a short story I also downloaded from The Gutenberg Project. I adore Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, and knowing she has written outside of the fantasy genre, I wanted to explore more of her works. This seemed like a great candidate and it was. It’s only about 25 pages and reminded me so much of a take on Superman but it was a great little piece to read while drinking tea and eating breakfast in the middle of a casino.

Key Out of Time by Andre Norton — Another Gutenberg Project download. I love a good time travel story, and this one is interesting, but I’m having a bit of trouble with it. I want to like it so much more than I am and the problem I think I’m having with it isn’t necessarily the book. It’s me. I kept reading it in between work events and only for a few minutes at a time and I haven’t had the opportunity to get into it for more than a few pages at a time. I may decide to sit down with it this week and finish it and hope that I can get into.

The Likeness by Tana French — With my Nook battery running low, I went for the one real book I brought with me, Tana French. I loved, loved, loved In The Woods. Half asleep on a layover but happy to be back on the East Coast, I wanted to stay awake to board the plane and get home and I knew French would keep me awake. She did. I’m about 55 pages into this book and let me tell you how good it is. I thought In The Woods was great, well, this one is already better.

If I can pull myself away from the TV for a few hours later tonight, I plan to pick up The Likeness again. For now, Bigfoot is calling. I’m scared to stop watching; they might find something when I’m not looking.

Happy Sunday readers. Finish any great books last week? Tell me about them. My stack is getting low.

(Also, ignore any typos. I’m still recovering from last week.)

The Sunday Salon – Weird Week

This has been a strange week.  We emerged from our vacation cocoon to be hit with an earthquake, told a hurricane would be heading our way, and to prepare for high winds and flooding.  Run, run away…preferably waving hands in air for dramatic flair.  My sister called me when she heard about the hurricane and my response, “Yea, someone hates DC right now.”

And the veggies even got in on the weirdness.  We belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) program and each week we get fruits and veggies delivered to my husband’s office.  He sent me this photo.

Him: “What is this?”

Me: “I think it’s a pattypan squash.  Usually they’re smaller than that though.”

Him: “IT’S HUGE!”

Me: “Apocalypse zombie squash.”

Him: “Nice.”

I’m hoping the squash is the end of the weirdness.  The winds and rain are gone and it’s now a beautiful day in DC.  We went for a walk this morning, and with the exception of a few tree limbs down, our neighborhood weathered Irene well.  Our power and water stayed on the entire night and no major problems to report.

Anyway…books!  No, I didn’t forget that’s usually what I talk about here.

On vacation last week I finished A Storm of Swords and holy crap George RR Martin.  You. Are. The. Master.  If I can get butt in chair for more than 10 minutes, I’ll get a review done.  I’m suffering from laziness on the writing front.

I also read A Long-Forgotten Truth by Rachel Ballard.  Not bad for a first time author.  I finished it in one sitting; very readable.

Started 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and finished it up this weekend.  I’m not sure what possessed me to pick up a 1,089 page book shortly after finishing a 1,074 page book!?  I’m book crazy, I know it.

Link love time…

In case my praise of Mr. Martin above was not trustworthy, The New York Times thinks the same thing.

Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – Back after an unexpected break

Well, I’m back.  (Gold star if you can tell me what book this line is from.  Hint: it’s the last line.)

Last week turned out to be a bit of a debacle in terms of blogging.  I had no intention of leaving things blank around here but a work conference took up a big part of my life and I couldn’t find the energy to do anything so Just Book Reading went quiet for a week.  Not the end of the world I know but since I do enjoy writing, it was a bit of a disappointment on my end.

While work did manage to suck the energy out of my writing, it didn’t do the same for my reading.  Conference work is boring with a decent amount of downtime so I did manage to read off and on.  I finished:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen — This one is wicked in terms of the social commentary and very enjoyable.  I only have Lady Susan and Mansfield Park to finish in my Complete Works of Jane Austen book.  And, well, there is Emma but I’ve never been a fan of that one and after several attempts to read it failed, I may skip it once more.

Abandoned by Amanda Stevens — This is a short story prequel to The Restorer which I read over a week ago and liked.  In Abandoned, some parts felt as though they weren’t fleshed out but that also may have been due to the fact that I read this after finishing The Restorer and was expecting it to fill in some additional background on certain characters which wasn’t the point of the story.  Once I got past my expectations, I enjoyed it.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle — I have no idea how this one ended up on my Nook; I think it may have been a recommendation from my uncle but can’t be sure.  After some ghosts stories, a classic take on a gothic novel, and a failed attempt at classic children’s literature, I thought a cop story might just be what I needed.  It was short which was also appealing.  It was goofy, clichéd, I figured out the killer early on, and parts made me laugh out loud, but I found it fun.  Odd how that works some days.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdson Burnett — I don’t remember reading this one as a child but I’m familiar with the story from the movie.  I started it earlier in the week but left off on page nine.  I’ll go back but I need to be in the mood for it and wasn’t this week.

I started Poison by Sara Poole yesterday and that will probably be my reading for today.

Some links to peruse:

A peek inside homes of writers.

Culinary book clubs.

People aren’t using the iPad to read.  Not surprising to me.

That’s it for me.  Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – Movies

First, I have to get this out of the way; daylight savings time is ruining my life today.  I planned to have a nice relaxing day — brunch with a friend, maybe a little shopping, maybe a museum, maybe a movie depending on how we’re feeling after a brunch full of goodies — but now I feel as if I’m already an hour behind!  Really hate that.  I’ll get over it in the next few minutes but putting it out there for anyone else that’s hates losing an hour of beloved sleep on the weekend.

Moving on to movies.  Jane Eyre came out this Friday and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time and since my husband has already said I need to recruit a friend (there was no way he was going) I’m going to try and convince a friend to see it with me today.  A trailer is below for the curious.  It looks absolutely delightful.  I read the book for the first time last year and adored it so I have very high hopes for the movie.  Has anyone seen it yet?  What did you think?

I fit in some good reading this week too.  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis was wonderful and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to find her.  Needless to say, I’ll be reading more.  This book reminded me how much I love science fiction.  I started The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick yesterday but I’m not having much luck with it.  Right now it’s a lot of characters and one really giant ship and I’m having trouble seeing where it’s going even after reading the end.  Not so sure about this one.  I may give it till to the end of the day to make a decision about finishing.

Now some fun things:

Tips on how to make your books last a long, long time.

Awesome bookends.

Dolly Parton, while I’m a country music fan, I do admire her for the work she does to promote literacy.  I had the opportunity way back in the day when I worked for the publishing industry to meet her and some of the people who work with the Imagination Library program and it’s wonderful group of people who care a lot about what they do.  She deserves a hand for making new readers every day.

The Tournament of Books is in play. Fessing up, when I play along with the NCAA tournament, I pick by color and mascot if I don’t know anything about a team (my husband is full of useless useful basketball knowledge so this doesn’t happen as long as he can stop me from falling back on my old ways) but I would have picked winners by cover.  Cuz I’m a cover lover.

The Royal Mail is putting out some Harry Potter love.

That is all I have for today.  Enjoy your 23 hour day.  Happy Sunday!

The Sunday Salon – Sharing is Fun

While browsing the internets this week, I came across a few things that made me want to share.  My mom is probably bursting with pride to know I’m using my sharing skills.  :-)

The first is an article that appeared in The Washington Post earlier this week – ‘Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen Brings Middle-Earth to iTunes Via Podcast.  His website, The Tolkien Professor, is even more interesting and I’ve already found a few books on Tolkien criticism that will be added to my list.  I haven’t downloaded any of the lectures from iTunes, only because I’m hopeless when it comes to that and somehow always mess something up that confuzzles my husband, so I’m holding off but it will happen at some point.

This I found on BBC News – Divided Attention Disorder? Log off and read a book.  I laughed while reading it (it’s written by a comedian so it was intended) because this is something I do.  Feel overwhelmed?  Read.  The part about googling the plot though is something I’ve done, but I won’t hang my head in shame.  I like to know the end.

I had a good week of reading too.  I finished Spook by Mary Roach, Autumn: The City by David Moody, and started A Conspiracy of Kings by Meghan Whalen Turner.  I even managed to sneak in the writing of a few reviews this week too so I’m feeling very accomplished on the book front.

I’m planning to make a four course meal tonight for Valentine’s Day.  We’re celebrating a day early thanks to crazy Monday schedules so I’m off to start cooking.  Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon

We had visitors this weekend so not much reading was done. I did get in a few chapters here and there but mostly it was filled with football games and touristy things.

In the last week, I finished The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, The Exile by Diana Gabaldon, and started Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling so even if I didn’t get to read this weekend, it was still a good week overall.

I don’t have much to say today which is probably due to the lack of sleep I’ve had the last few nights.  Even the nap this afternoon didn’t help so I’ll be making this a very short salon today.  I was planning to talk about cleaning off the bookshelves or maybe even holiday reading but I don’t have it in me today.  :-)

Happy Sunday.