Monday, December 30, 2013

December Books and 2013 Reading Roundup!

1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt - Full disclosure, I've never read The Secret History, which by all accounts is an amazing book.  Having heard so many wonderful reviews over the years, I was curious about Tartt's newest book, so I snagged it from the library.  My opinion?  I agree with every single review that I've heard/read about The Goldfinch.  It's an amazing book...but it's way too long....but I'm not sure what Tartt could/should have cut.  For me the first half of the book was insanely good.  Couldn't put it down, was totally engrossed.  It started to lose steam after that, though, and with about 1/4 of the book left I gave up.  I skimmed the last 250 pages or so (I read the ebook version, so I don't know what that translates into in terms of real pages.)  I think my biggest issue was that I just flat out stopped caring about the characters and so it became a slog.  I really wanted to love this book, and I almost did.  Sort of.

2.  After Dead, Charlaine Harris - Having finished up the Sookie Stackhouse books, Harris decided to write a follow-up book that explains what happened to all of the characters after the events of the books ended.  It was a super-quick read, and was super-fun.  Harris has a wry sense of humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her vignettes on each of her characters.  I also think it's pretty darn awesome that she decided to do the ever afters on her own terms. 

3.  Lud In The Mist, Hope Mirrlees - I'm a sucker for a good blurb, and when Neil Gaiman's name is attached it becomes a must-read.  Lud is very much a typical fairy tale....although one with a bit more foo-foo language than most.  I had trouble getting into it - partially because of that foo-foo language, which I found to be tiresome and confusing.  (Overly flowery for flowery's sake)  At the end of the day, though, I did enjoy the plot and characters.  Yeah...I enjoyed it, but I don't know that I would recommend it.

4.  Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowel - How to bait a hook really, really well for me:  describe a book as Jane Austin with a magic twist!  I tumbled across this book while looking through the Hugo and Nebula Award winner/nominee lists on iBooks, and could NOT resist.  Absolutely true that it's a very lighthearted read with little of real substance...but it's also absolutely true that it was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to read the two sequels!  It was a lot of fun tracing the Austin influence in Kowel's characters. 

5.  The Golum and the Jinni, Helene Wecker - This book popped up on multiple Best of 2013 lists, and when an online friend urged me to read it I knew I could not resist.  Wow.  Just.....Wow.  I don't know that I really want to say much about it, other should all totally read it asap.

6.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin - A couple of my college friends have been recommending this book to me for YEARS.  Silly me, I really wish I'd read it immediately!  I immediately fell in love with Yeine, our heroine, and was tickled to find a pretty fresh world in Jemisin's creation.  It was a thoroughly satisfying read, and was probably the most traditional fantasy novel that I've read in a long while.  It made me very hungry for more. 

7.  Shadow & Bone, Leigh Bardugo - A Books on the Nightstand recommendation that I couldn't resist when I discovered it was on sale for $2 on ibooks!  Yay!  (The end of the year deals have been amazing.)  This is YA fantasy at it's absolute best, and I loved the Russian twist to the fantasy world.  The second book came out this year, and according to at least one review I read it's every bit as good as the Shadow & Bone.  The third book is due out next year, and the real question is do I read the second now or wait until #3 is published so that I can read them back to back?

8.  Ironskin, Tina Connolly - Absolutely true, it is Jane Eyre with a fey twist.  (The author recognizes that in the acknowledgements, although it's a tad unclear as to whether or not it was originally intended.  I think it must have been.  It's too obvious.)  Just as with Shades of Milk and Honey, this second few twist on a classic was found on the Hugo and Nebula iBooks pages.  The difference, though, is that there was real substance in Ironskin.  There's much there about appearance, self-worth and finding one's inner value.  I couldn't put it down....which was somewhat problematic as I was reading it over Christmas at my parents' house!

9.  The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M. Valente - I absolutely adore Valente's books about the marvelous September....but I also am realizing that I find them maybe just a tad too precious.  As much as I delight in the whimsy, I have to admit that these books can be a tad difficult to really get into, and they tend to put me to sleep when I'm reading them.  I'm thinking it's perhaps because I was so fully engrossed by so many good books this month that I finally noticed....or maybe it's just because by book 3 the problems are starting to show.  Not sure.  I still love them, but I just can't give this one as much of a recommendation as I have in the past, and I'm not sure if I'll continue on if there are more books. 

10.  Copperhead, Tina Connolly - Ooohhhh....a sequel!  With another one planned!  Connolly has blissfully moved on from Jane Eyre, and focuses this book on Jane of Ironskin's sister, Helen.   Yep, snapped it up as soon as I discovered it.  Haven't finished it yet, but will by the stroke of midnight tomorrow night!  Love it!

And now....drumroll please....
my 2013 Book and Reading Review!

  •  I read a total of 117 books this year.
  • With about 4 of those being books I didn't complete, that averages out to 10 full books/month.
  • October was my biggest month - with 16 books.
  • Interestingly enough, my October book blog post was my most popular blog post ever. 
  • I had three months of themed reading, which was fun. 
  • Several years ago I discovered the Books on the Nightstand podcast, and since then the range of what I read has expanded greatly.  I think it's been really good for me, and it's certainly introduced me to a wide range of authors that I never would have tried before.
  • Having said that, December brought me back to fantasy, which has long been my great love - and I have to admit that it felt really, really good.  I may focus more on fantasy/fairy tales in the next year.
My Top 10 of 2013
(in order of when they were read)
  1. Wonder
  2. Beautiful Ruins
  3. Tiny Beautiful Things
  4. The Hum and the Shiver
  5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  6. A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon
  7. Life After Life
  8. Night Film
  9. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest
  10. The Golum and the Jinni
Thank you for traveling along with me on all of my reading adventures. 

Here's hoping 2014 brings just as many wonderful books!

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