2013 Year in Review


So I started out 2013 with a goal to read 25 books. I kept adding 10 to my goal and finally stopped extending it when I got to 85. I ended up reading 169 books (though there’s still a few days left so this number could go up by one or two). I thought I’d call attention to some of my favorites – and my not so favorites.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR – MYSTERY/SUSPENSE: LINWOOD BARCLAY

Never Look Away  No Time for Goodbye  The Accident

Linwood Barclay is not a new author, but I just discovered him this year. So far I’ve only read the above 3 books, but they were all consistently good. It’s not just great mystery. He writes really great, relatable characters, too.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR – ROMANCE: KRISTAN HIGGINS

The Next Best Thing   The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)   All I Ever Wanted   Just One of the Guys

I read Just One of the Guys early in the year because it was a free nook book and I enjoyed it. I recently just went on a Kristan Higgins splurge and read every book that she has published. They all pretty closely follow the same outline, but I love them all. I love her character development – particularly her “flashback” style of writing -, her quirky secondary characters, and that it’s romance without being erotic.

FAVORITE RETURNING AUTHOR: RAINBOW ROWELL

Fangirl

Ok, I’m going to share a very unpopular opinion. I did not love Eleanor and Park. It was only just ok for me. But I still love you Rainbow Rowell! And she gave me another excellent book to read this year in Fangirl. Cath and Levi. Sigh.

FAVORITE COUPLE (ADULT): MARTIN RILKE & IVY THAXTON RILKE

The Passing Bells (Passing Bells, #1)

I don’t think I can ever say enough how much I love Martin Rilke.  He and Ivy were my favorite characters in The Passing Bells and I absolutely loved them together.

FAVORITE COUPLE (YA): DAEMON & KATY

Onyx (Lux, #2)

Of course this has to be Daemon and Katy from Lux. They’re sarcastic and adorable.

BEST CHARACTER GROWTH: JOHN TOMASETTI

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)

Tomasetti of the Kate Burkholder series starts off as a barely functioning alcoholic and prescription drug addict that’s just hanging on to his job and recovering from the murder of his wife and daughters. Throughout the series he sobers up (more or less), returns to being the agent he once was, and becomes the stable one in his relationship with Kate.

FAVORITE CAST OF CHARACTERS: THE RAVEN BOYS

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue. I love the interactions between this group. What really draws me into this series is the characters. I wish I would’ve come up with them.

BEST FREE BOOK: BACK ON MURDER

Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery, #1)

I discovered The Roland March series by J. Mark Bertrand because the first in the series was a free nook book at Barnes and Noble (you can get it for FREE here). Bertrand is a solid writer and I gave all three books in this series 4 stars.

FAVORITE NEW SERIES (YA): LUX

Obsidian (Lux, #1)  Onyx (Lux, #2) Opal (Lux, #3)  Origin (Lux, #4)

I’ve probably mentioned Jennifer Armentrout and her Lux series in this blog more than any other author or series. I love the writing, the characters, the banter, the mysteries, and the action.

FAVORITE NEW SERIES (ADULT): THE KATE BURKHOLDER SERIES

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)  Pray for Silence (Kate Burkholder, #2)  Breaking Silence (Kate Burkholder, #3)  Gone Missing (Kate Burkholder, #4)  Long Lost (Kate Burkholder #4.5)Her Last Breath (Kate Burkholder, #5)

I have to say that part of me loves this series because it’s based in Holmes County, Ohio – not far from where I grew up. But I also love the characters and the mystery.

LIVED UP TO THE HYPE: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

The Fault in Our Stars

I did not believe that The Fault in our Stars would make me cry. I was wrong. But it was also sarcastic and funny and wonderful.

DIDN’T LIVE UP TO THE HYPE: THE SILENT WIFE

The Silent Wife

I kept reading things about how this was this summer’s Gone Girl. It was not. It took me about a month to finally finish it.

MOST DISAPPOINTING SEQUEL: THE ELITE

The Elite (The Selection, #2)

This book actually made me angry. I really enjoyed the first book, but this one was just horrible. America becomes unbearably annoying. Aspen is a doormat. Maxon is a dick. And the rebel subplot… Here’s hoping the end of the series makes up for this book.

MOST DISAPPOINTING END OF A SERIES – RUNNER-UP: REQUIEM

Requiem (Delirium, #3)

Ugh. This story went so down hill for me in this book. The love triangle in Requiem‘s is the reason I hate them. And though Lena’s choice is obvious, she never actually “picks” him. And half the book was given to Hanna’s POV, who I could not care less about (seriously – I can’t even tell how much I DON’T care about Hanna). I felt like the end was left open for future books instead of concluding the story of Lena. It turned into an obvious and poorly done social commentary on how we need to love.

MOST DISAPPOINTING END OF A SERIES: ALLEGIANT

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

I was soooo disappointed by this book. I didn’t think it was possible for an ending to disappoint me more than Requiem did, but this one really took the cake. While Allegiant wraps things up in a way Requiem does not, I was still more disappointed with it because I loved this series so much and was so, so expecting it to be amazing. It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t agree with the ending. It was just poorly done.

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR – RUNNER UP: UNRAVEL ME

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)

I loved the first book in this series and this one got even better. And even though I hate to admit it, the love triangle in this book actually works. I don’t feel like there’s a clear choice for Juliette and I get that she has feelings for both of them because I have feelings for both of them. Just when I’ve decided I’m Team Warner, she runs into Adam and I suddenly feel conflicted. Because of course I’m Team Adam. But then there’s Warner…

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: THE NIGHT CIRCUS

The Night Circus

This wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be. It’s super descriptive which I don’t usually like, but it was done so beautifully in this book that I loved it. The emotional connection I felt to these characters were greater than any others I’ve read this year.

Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi – 3 stars (out of 5)

Fracture Me (Shatter Me, #2.5)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam’s focus couldn’t be further from the upcoming battle. He’s reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend’s life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James’s safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It’s time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam’s newly discovered half brother, won’t be that easy. The Reestablishment can’t tolerate a rebellion, and they’ll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS FROM ALL BOOKS IN THE SERIES THUS FAR

Since the Shatter Me  series is told through Juliette’s 1st person POV and the last novella was from Warner’s POV, I was very excited to get Adam’s perspective. I loved him so much in the first book and not quite as much in the last book, so I was ready to love him again. However, my feelings are…mixed.

He’s still sweet and strong and loving. But I felt like he’s been a bit of drama king in Unravel Me and in this story we find he’s not quite as heartbroken as he’s seemed. He’s actually a little more scared of Juliette then he’s ever let on and when he has to choose between rescuing Juliette or going back for his brother, he picks his brother. Now I’m not saying that’s the wrong decision at all. I think he should go for his brother. But afterwards he didn’t even seem interested in going after Juliette. It was Kenji who was all broken up about it.

Where Warner’s novella was set up to make us love him (or at least pity and root for him), I think Adam’s novella is set up to help us understand he’ll be ok when he ultimately doesn’t end up with Juliette –  I’m calling that one now. Whether or not Juliette ends up with Warner is still up for debate, but she won’t end up happily ever after with Adam.

Aside from Adam’s love life, or lack thereof, we also see what happens to the Omega Point gang after Juliette was taken. They are almost entirely wiped out and their bunker is destroyed. The survivors are holing up at Adam’s old apartment – including the rescued Winston and Brendan! – when they (mistakenly) find out that Juliette has been killed.

Overall, I enjoyed the too short Fracture Me. I would’ve liked it to have been a little longer, but I think it served it’s purpose. I also really enjoyed the sneak peak of Ignite Me at the end. February 4th can’t come soon enough!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, by the Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten New to me Authors I read in 2013.

1. Linwood Barclay – I love his mysteries and his really well developed characters.

2. Jennifer Armentrout – We all know by now that I love the Lux series

3. Brigid Kemmerer – Love, love her Elemental series.

4. Patrick Lee – Loved Runner

5. Maggie Stiefvater – She writes amazing characters. The Raven boys and Blue. Heart them.

6. Leigh Bardugo – The Shadow and Bone series

7. Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus. Beautiful.

8. Kristan Higgins – She writes zany families and cute romances.

9. J Mark Bertrand – Writes great mysteries

10. Marissa Meyer – Cinder and Scarlet. So good.

Monday’s Minutes – On Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday! I wasn’t really feeling it on Monday (or yesterday for Top Ten Tuesday), so I thought I’d do my Monday’s Minutes today.

WHAT I WAS READING ON MONDAY

The Perfect Match (Blue Heron, #2)

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins. This book was pretty adorable. Predictable? Sure. But most romance novels are. I might do a full review on this one later. But for now, I’ll just say that I think Kristan Higgins is becoming my favorite romance author.

WHAT I’M READING

Legend (Legend, #1)

Legend by Marie Lu. I’ve heard nothing by amazing things about this series and I’ve been waiting to read it for awhile. So far it’s just ok. I’m hoping it picks up soon.

WHAT I’M READING NEXT

Undercurrent

Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell. This is a library book that I kind of forgot I reserved, but hopefully it’s good.

Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix – 3 stars (out of 5)

Firefly Hollow (Firefly Hollow, #1)

*I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.*

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The mysterious recluse…

Owen Campbell holds himself apart from other people. Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, he doesn’t expect to find true love or happiness. He remains isolated in a prison of his own making, determined to not let anyone close enough to hurt him again.

But his willpower is shaken to the core when Sarah Browning enters his world.

The girl next door…

Sarah Jane Browning is three years into her college degree when a call from home changes everything. Back at the family homestead in the heart of Appalachia, she’s forced to reevaluate her hopes and dreams for the future.

Distraction from her heartache comes in the form of her parents’ neighbor. Whispers about “odd Owen Campbell” abound in their small community, and Sarah’s curiosity is aroused. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, what she finds is beyond her wildest imaginings.

As Sarah struggles to overcome tragedy and loss, her burgeoning relationship with Owen is sorely tested. Will love conquer all, or will the secrets from Owen’s past tear them apart forever?

My Thoughts:

-Firefly Hollow is described as a Romance with paranormal elements. I didn’t really understand how that was different than a “paranormal romance”, but after reading it, that description makes sense. We find out almost right away that Owen is a shape shifter, but it’s a pretty minor point in the love story.

-The story centers on Sarah and Owen and their growing relationship. I felt like both characters were likable and well-developed. They’ve both gone through multiple heartaches and hardships that made them relatable, to each other and to the readers.

-The cast of secondary characters were also well-developed, especially Sarah’s mom, Eliza. She was wise and smart and loving. I enjoyed her honest and open relationship with Sarah and with her other children, Jack and Kathy. Owen’s uncle Eli was also very likable.

-The pace was pretty slow, but the writing made up for it. Despite not a whole lot really happening, I found myself unable to put the book down. Though there were a couple of major events, the real story was in the small moments. The emotional and character development of both Sarah and Owen, as individuals as well as a couple, is what made the story so compelling.

-Overall I enjoyed Firefly Hollow. It’s over 300 pages and I read it in less than 24 hours. I would recommend this to those interested in Romance and don’t mind a bit of the paranormal. I liked Haddix’s writing style and look forward to reading more books by her.

The Art of Letting Go by Anna Bloom – 3.5 stars (out of 5)

The Art of Letting Go (The Uni Files - Year One)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

One year. One woman. One Diary. One question: can you ever stop history from repeating itself and if you could what would you do to stop it?

When Lilah McCannon realizes at the age of twenty-five that history is going to repeat itself and she is going to become her mother—bored, drunk and wearing a twinset—there is only one thing to do: take drastic action.

Turning her back on her old life, Lilah’s plan is to enroll at university, get a degree and prove she is a grown-up.

As plans go, it is a good one. There are rules to follow: no alcohol, no cigarettes, no boys and no going home. But when Lilah meets the lead singer of a local band and finds herself unexpectedly falling in love, she realizes her rules are not going to be the only things hard to keep.

With the academic year slipping by too quickly, Lilah faces a barrage of new challenges: will she ever make it up the Library stairs without having a heart attack? Can she handle a day on campus without drinking vodka? Will she ever manage to read a history book without falling asleep? And most importantly, can she become the grown-up that she desperately wants to be.

With her head and her heart pulling her in different directions can Lilah learn the hardest lesson that her first year of university has to teach her: The Art of Letting Go?

First of all, a big thanks to KimberlyFayeReads, for hosting the giveaway I won this book from! Free books are my favorite.

I’m generally not a fan of the New Adult genre. In my reading experience, it basically means it’s a Young Adult book with Adult sex scenes (sometimes Very Adult, graphic sex scenes that are quickly skimmed over). There’s almost always  a manwhore who changes his ways for the one, who just so happens to be very innocent.  They’re usually freshmen in college who are still teenagers and not really dealing with anything a new adult would be.

 So I was pleasantly surprised that The Art of Letting Go focuses on a couple in their mid-twenties, facing real “what am I doing with my life??” questions. Losing one’s virginity is not a main plot point and there are no graphic scenes at all.

Lilah, our main character, is twenty-five when she decides to leave her cushy bank job and her fiancé and start over at university. I felt like Lilah was a blend between Bridget Jones (the movie, I haven’t read the books so I’m not sure how similar they are) and a Sophie Kinsella character. Which means that she tries very hard to try to do better. Sometimes she succeeds, but mostly she wakes up with a hangover. While I found that she was funny and relatable a good deal of the time, I was bothered by how much drinking she did. She and her friends all sound a little like alcoholics.

Then there’s Ben. I read The Saving of Benjamin Chambers, the prequel from Ben’s POV, before reading this book. While I really liked Ben, I was a little put off by his new stalkerish purpose in life. I was expecting him to be a psycho, possessive boyfriend in this book and he really wasn’t. Even though he’s been in this relationship about 9 months longer than Lilah has been, he doesn’t ever push her. He’s just there – cooking her breakfast, walking her to the library from class, hanging out, playing his guitar. Even though it started out a little bit like “insta-love”, they really do earn their relationship.

I liked the secondary characters, their roommates and Lilah’s twin brother, Tristan. I was a little skeeved out by 25 year old Tristan going out with 18 year old Meredith, but they ended up being a pretty stable couple that I liked. I would’ve liked to have seen Ben’s band mates more, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Art of Letting Go. It was funny and sweet and probably the best New Adult book I’ve read. I would have given it 4 stars, except for a couple of issues. The plot involved a lot of getting drunk, having sex, repeat (though it wasn’t graphic scenes, so props for that). And maybe it’s a British thing, but I found the lack of contractions to be a little distracting and made the dialogue oddly formal.

I would recommend this book to fans of NA or Contemporary Romance. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Ben and Lilah next in The Art of Keeping Faith, which comes out in the spring.

Sentinel (Covenant #5) by Jennifer Armentrout – 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Sentinel (Covenant, #5)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

It’s a beautiful day for a war.

As the mortal world slowly slips into chaos of the godly kind, Alexandria Andros must overcome a stunning defeat that has left her shaken and in doubt of their ability to end this war once and for all.

And with all the obstacles between Alex and her happily-ever-after with the swoonworthy Aiden St. Delphi, they must now trust a deadly foe as they travel deep into the Underworld to release one of the most dangerous gods of all time.

In the stunning, action-packed climax to the bestselling Covenant series, Alex must face a terrible choice: the destruction of everything and everyone she holds dear… or the end of herself.

Sentinel is the last book in the Covenant series and I found it to be a pretty satisfying conclusion.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

-Seth is back!!!! And he’s not a psycho!!!! And he’s back to being my favorite!!!! Not that that excited me or anything…But seriously. I love Seth. I love his banter with Alex. I love how protective he is of her. I love that he no longer is being the controlling douche he was in books #3 and #4.

-And since Seth is back and has joined the Army of Awesome, Alex is able to take some of his power and become the God Killer. My favorite part about this final fight to take out Ares is that Aiden actually kept his promise and didn’t try to fight with them. I understand him wanting to be there for Alex. But his insistence was ridiculous. Dude. He’s the god of a war. You’re a little Pure-Blood. THERE IS NO WAY YOU MAKE IT OUT OF THAT ALIVE! I was very happy when he finally agreed to not be there and that he stuck to it. I also liked that Alex and Seth had to work together to do it.

-So the downside of becoming the God Killer is that the gods are going to want you dead after you do their dirty work so you can’t go after them. Alex was about 99% sure that was going to happen, but was still holding out hope since Apollo – the only one who can kill her – says he’ll take care of her. However, taking care of her does not include keeping her alive. So she dies, after a nice last moment with the very distressed Seth. Unlike that other book that killed off it’s heroine, I felt like Alex’s “death” makes sense. We found out at least a book ago that this would probably be the ending. And she is the only one who can do it. And it basically saves all mankind. Was I bummed that she died? Of course. But it seemed to make sense with the story.

-But dead is such a relative term when it comes to a book that details the Underworld – where you can play video games and still hang out with your friends. Alex gets to see Caleb (!) and her mom and Olivia and even Lea. But obviously she’s still not that happy about it. After completing a little ceremony with Apollo, she finds out that her mortal life is over, but he had previously given her a drink that has made her immortal. And Aiden has also been given that drink – thanks to a deal that Seth makes with the gods, which sucks for Seth, but sets up his spin-off series nicely. (Can I say how excited I am for a whole series about Seth!? I’m excited!) In exchange for the immortality they have to spend 6 months in the Underworld and 6 months in the mortal world for all eternity. Does that make much sense? Not really. But it’s still a happily ever after for Alex and Aiden that I find pretty satisfying.

-Overall, I enjoyed Sentinel and the whole Covenant series. Though Lux is still my favorite JLA series, I would recommend this series to fans of her. I would also recommend it to people who enjoyed The Vampire Academy series – they have similarities, but I ended up liking this series way more. I would also recommend this series to fans of Greek Mythology. I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m looking forward to more Seth in the future.