Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Favorite Reads!

My favorites list always get to be challenging posts because there are definite books or audiobooks that MUST be on the list and then there are some that are very good and I'd like to be on the list, only I need to stick to my cut-off point, so I go back and forth about which is actually the best to appear on the list...and so many things can factor into that final choice. If I read it longer ago, do I remember exactly how it made me feel when I finished? Or am I remembering that better for the more recent books? And as I was mentioning with a friend last week, what I read before that book could impact my reaction to it as well. So, the point of my babbling here is just that this is always a challenge for me. I've read many many good books this year, and I'm so thankful for all of them.

But when I put myself to the task, here are my favorite 10 of 2013 (the titles link to my reviews if you want to see what I had to say when I reviewed them):

EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES (Hilary Davidson) -  Davidson has a keen talent for atmosphere. Between the exotic locales of her settings and the eerie, suspense of the plots, readers are enveloped by the story. Evil in All Its Disguises is Davidson's third entry in her Lily Moore series and her strongest to date. She simply continues to exceed expectations in every aspect of the crime novel and the experience of reading her is unforgettable. Forge, March 2013

SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT (Craig Johnson) - The novella that started out as a short story is a heartwarming holiday tale featuring one of my absolute favorite residents of Absaroka County, Lucian Connolly. Spirit of Steamboat is all of Johnson's great writing qualities packed into a pint-size book: humor, suspense, sense of time and place, amazing characters speaking sharp dialogue, and a sense of connection. Reading Spirit of Steamboat you feel as though these people are your friends,  your neighbors, your family, so you can't help but relate and identify with them. This is a gem to add to the fabulous Walt Longmire canon. Viking, October 2013

SUSPECT (Robert Crais) - I've long held that L.A. Requiem is my favorite Crais book. But this year, Suspect usurped it. LAR is still my favorite Elvis/Joe book, but Suspect is evidence that Crais strives to be a better writer with every book. His portrayal of both man and dog suffering PTSD is intimate and stunning. The relationship he creates between man and dog is beautifully heart-wrenching. This is simply an incredible book.  Putnam, January 2013

IF YOU WERE HERE (Alafair Burke) - I mentioned last week that I thought the cover for this book was the best of all Burke's covers to date. I also think this is her best BOOK to date.  She's stretching her writing chops and it's paying off in spades. The complexity of her plot and the richness of her characters made this a fast-paced, exciting read.  Harper, June 2013
THE TILTED WORLD (Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly) - Lyrically beautiful and frightful at the same time. Franklin and Fennelly show no obvious signs of two different writers contributing to this incredible story. The dialogue, characters, atmosphere, tone, it's all pitch perfect. To read The Titled World and not get lost in the story is unthinkable to me. It also brings to light a period we've all but forgotten as well as a segment of the population we never remembered to begin with. William Morrow, October 2013

THE BROKEN PLACES (Ace Atkins) - With each new installment to this series, I love it more and more. Atkins' integration of the storm infused the story with energy and suspense. His depiction of the Southern small town brings out all the splendor of setting and people--both good and bad, but never over-simplified. Quinn's haunted soul is much more than the loner trope of crime novels. He's a dynamic character with layers that Atkins is carefully pealing away with each novel. And the supporting cast of the series is just as distinct and authentic. Putnam, May 2013

TELL NO LIES (Gregg Hurwitz) - I mentioned yesterday that with the discovery of new authors each year, it becomes harder and harder to keep up with them all. Gregg Hurwitz is one I never miss because each book is amazing and each one seems to top the one before it. TELL NO LIES took Hurwitz to new levels of great. His pacing, plot twists, relationships, ethical scenarios and social issues are stronger than ever. Delving into the psychological in this novel, Hurwitz created a one-sitting read. St. Martin's Press, August 2013

THE AMERICAN WAY OF POVERTY (Sasha Abramsky) - O.k. this one isn't crime fiction, but it is one of my favorite reads this year. We all have preconceived notions about poverty and U.S. programs for the poor. Many are faulty notions at best. The American Way of Poverty illuminates the reality through statistics, anecdotes and policy definitions. So many of the ailments of our country are all tied in together: education, health care, poverty, crime...The reality is disheartening but the potential for changes is inspiring. And since education is the first step to change, this book is a definite must-read for any and all Americans. It's motivating and empowering. Challenge yourselves! Nation Books, September 2013

BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE SPARKLEPONIES (Chris Kluwe) - The other non-crime novel on my list. This book is smart, funny, inspiring and genuine. Kluwe's overall message through the collection of essays, letters, blog posts, etc., is empathy...the Golden Rule. I don't think there's enough emphasis on that mindset these days. It's all "me, me, me." Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies can be blunt and direct, but Kluwe's passion is never questionable. It's refreshing to see a young man in his position in society take an articulate stand in this way. I simply can't stop recommending this one to people. Little, Brown and Co., June 2013

BRILLIANCE (Marcus Sakey) - Can I just do the "OMG, this book is wonderful!" line? It truly is. This was the book that ruined the books I read after it. Nothing could compare. Brilliance is a mix of literary, sci-fiction, crime. The whole concept of the book is fascinating, but in Sakey's able hands, it became extraordinary. I can absolutely see this being The Brave New World of our generation. Ringing in at 500 pages, I couldn't believe how fast the end came...too fast. If you've yet to read this book, GET. IT. NOW. Thomas & Mercer, July 2013

And that my friends is my round-up of my favorite reads of 2013. Now how about you? What made your lists this year? What are the books you've most recommended to others? And what are you most looking forward to in 2014? For me, I'm looking forward to sharing great books with you another year. To, hopefully, trying some new things on the blog and discovering more new authors and celebrating a love of reading and books. Thanks for being along for the ride this year.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Lesa December 31, 2013 at 11:31 AM  

Spirit of Steamboat is the only book on both of our lists, Jen. I always enjoy reading your list and checking in with you. Happy New Year! I wish you a year of good reading and great books. See you in March!

Marcus Sakey January 1, 2014 at 12:29 PM  

You're way, way too kind, Jen, but I love it. Thanks so much! This is some fierce company.

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