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2013 reading highlights, finally.

Last year, I had a reading goal: finish at least 150 books within the year. That’s twelve and a half books a month. Almost three books a week.

I finished the year with 162 books under my belt.

Here are some of the highlights. 🙂

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon – Naomi Novak
  2. Throne of Jade – Naomi Novak
  3. Black Powder War – Naomi Novak
    — The first three books of the Temeraire series, these were absolutely phenomenal and I was hooked. Putting them down at any point was no small feat. It’s an alternate version of history, injecting intelligent dragon allies in the battle against Napoleon Bonaparte. I was a bit skeptical too, no worries. There’s dragons and sailors, military strategy, naval and aerial battles, drama and action and romance (the unconventional sort, the best sort) and culture! I can’t gush enough about this series. I will be continuing it.
  4. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber
    — Admittedly, I’d read this book years back when I was in high school, but I remember loving it then and so I was happy to delve back into it when its turn arrived. Unsurprisingly, I found that I loved it still! It’s a rather gritty book, full of the less-than-stellar details that make up life. It’s raw and captivating. The characters are phenomenal and there’s really no solid “good guy” to be found. They all have flaws and that’s beautiful. You either love them or you hate them, and often your opinion doesn’t start out exactly as it started!
  5. Blood Red Road – Moira Young
    — As a huge fan of the Hunger Games trilogy, I simply had to pick up the book that was reviewed as being better than. And honestly? I absolutely hated this book when I first started to read it. It’s written in a first-person style, with the horrendous grammar and accent of an uneducated protagonist, which tends to make the anal literate that I am twitch a bit in distaste. So for a while, it sat on my shelf, neglected, unfinished and forgotten, until I happened upon it again. Determined to read everything on my shelves, I grit my teeth and settled in… and absolutely fell in love with it. Once you can settle in to hearing Saba’s voice, the book simply flies by. The adventure is thrilling, concepts exciting, and the character dynamics are fascinating. I don’t know that I can agree that it’s better than Hunger Games, but it’s certainly on par, at the least. And the romantic that lives in my little black heart was quite intrigued by the bits of love story scattered about.
  6. Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews
  7. Petals on the Wind – V.C. Andrews
    — I think I became a fan of V.C. Andrews before I’d even read her books. I mean, she has been banned from libraries. How compelling is that? She definitely doesn’t shy away from sensitive topics and issues, which just makes me all the more attached to her novels! These are the first two books about the Dollanganger children and they definitely meet up to the hype. They’re dark, twisted, and bound to leave you shocked. Because really, did that just happen? Are they implying what I think they’re implying? Yes, it did, and yes, they are. Boom.
  8. The Host – Stephenie Meyer
    — Okay, okay, okay, before you judge… I was not a fan of the Twilight series. They blew up before I could read them, so I never did. I never saw the movies either, but there’s enough spoilers to let me know about the ridiculous love triangle and all the many flaws. I opened this book with plenty of skepticism. That aside, I absolutely adored The Host. There’s not that many stories that feature aliens, at least not that I’m aware of, so this was new, this was exciting, and I’ve always been rather intrigued by alien parasites that can pass for humans. I blame it on my love for Animorphs, way back when. In my opinion, Stephenie Meyer’s biggest flaw is romanticizing elements that would otherwise be just plain creepy and flubbing a bit on proper character development. Sometimes, you can just tell that she’s pushing the characters to fit a role and it just comes off as awkward because it doesn’t match up with the rest of their behavior. But her writing style is not altogether bad, the story was amazing, the cliffhangers were addictive, and I was in love. I couldn’t put it down.
  9. The Boleyn Inheritance – Philippa Gregory
  10. The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
  11. The Wise Woman – Philippa Gregory
    — As a major history buff, especially regarding the Tudor family, I cannot get enough of Philippa Gregory. I will never be able to not love this woman. I will never be able to gush enough about her, I will never be able to recommend her highly enough. Just, unf. The Other Boleyn Girl was a book that I’ve actually read several times over by this point, but I was still excited as could be to read it again. It’d been a while. The main protagonist is Mary, the sister to the far more notorious Anne Boleyn. The Boleyn Inheritance takes place among the time of Henry’s fourth and fifth wife. It’s a story told from the view point of three completely different women–Anne of Cleves, a German princess that he married for political reasons; Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford and wife to the beheaded George Boleyn, and finally Katherine Howard, a cousin to Anne Boleyn and Henry’s fifth wife, the second to meet the executioner’s axe. Lastly, The Wise Woman was a truly chilling and disturbing piece of work. It creeped me out. There are absolutely no good characters–and when I say this, I mean that everyone is a villain. And that made it all the more perfect.
  12. Handle With Care – Jodi Picoult
    — Another superb author, I would love to read everything that Picoult has written and I certainly aim to do so. She has such an amazing way of taking concepts, whether they be everyday know-how or obscure notions, and weaving them into amazing, heart-wrenching plots. This woman knows how to make me cry. She knows how to put power and feeling into her stories. Handle With Care was no different. I knew about brittle bone syndrome prior to reading the book, but she took this knowledge, took this disease, and just ran away with it, exploring angles and perspectives that I would never have known about. It’s just all absolutely astounding. However, I did not enjoy the ending. And I won’t even say why.
  13. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
    — Sooooo… I did not care for the beginning. I had trouble getting into it. I kept getting stumped with the jargon, the lingo, the long and endless paragraphs about things that I absolutely don’t care about one bit. On that bit alone, I could not recommend this book to people that aren’t interested in highly technical and analytical talk about business and whatnot. I, however, powered through because this book was on my shelf and I was determined to read everything on said shelf. I don’t know the precise point, but there was definitely a switch from where this book that was a struggle to read became a book that was a struggle to put down. It’s gritty and disturbing, and action-packed. The romance is far from anything conventional and you almost don’t even know whether to root for them or not. Do I want these two together? Do I think this is weird? I don’t even know. And you’re still reading, still going, and having to take breaks every few minutes to digest just because whoa. Definitely worth the effort of the beginning.
  14. Club Dead – Charlaine Harris
  15. Dead and Gone – Charlaine Harris
    — Another moment of picking up a book with skepticism. I liked the concept of True Blood, but then it blew up and the hipster in me gave it a wide berth, but somehow I ended up with a couple books out of the series (admittedly, neither of these are even remotely anywhere towards the beginning of said series) and so they were read. And I loved them. They were charming and cute. Sookie was precious, and her weird love life with… well, everyone was hilarious. And sexy, okay, I admit it. And going into it with a comedic mindset is definitely helpful. I mean, seriously, Sheriff of the Louisiana Kingdom? But it’s cute! It’s funny! It’s hot. I’ll be collecting more of these.
  16. Something Blue – Emily Giffin
    — The sequel to Something Borrowed, which I was a huge fan of, Something Blue is a sweet modern story of finding yourself, making amends, and finding love. It’s a typical sort of thing, but it was charming. The main character is something that I feel anyone could easily relate to and her relationships with the people around her are intriguing, her rivalry with an old friend and her drama with an ex-fiancee, as well as her efforts to make new connections elsewhere. Coming face to face with your flaws and working to improve is never an easy feat, and it’s a journey that this book captured wonderfully.
  17. Tricks – Ellen Hopkins
    — I love Ellen Hopkins. She tells her stories in short, captivating poems that are full of power and intensity and raw honesty about how life is and the dirt that it can rub your face in. She takes that seedy underbelly world that’s rife with drugs, sex and violence, and she turns it into poetry. She makes it into an impact. Tricks is no different; it’s several stories wrapped into one, several vastly different people and the rocky road that leads them into turning tricks to survive.
  18. Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity – Kerry Cohen
    — This is a book that strikes very deeply for me, so my recommendation on this one may be quite biased. I’ve definitely come from the sort of place that’s described in this book. I’ve been filled with these feelings of insecurity and ugliness, the feeling that you’re unlovable, and it’s a feeling that can drive you to do things that aren’t healthy for your esteem in order to achieve something that you don’t think you’re worth. Reading it put so plainly into print was definitely a powerful and heartbreaking experience. Getting to watch the author push through these struggles, rise above these obstacles to become someone better, it provides a very inspirational message. It’s very empowering. And if you’ve ever dealt with low self-esteem, this book is the one.
  19. Shanghai Girls – Lisa See
    — A story that centers around the complex relationship between two sisters from Shanghai, it’s a riveting tale that carries you with them through arranged marriages, war and its ugly consequences, internment and the difficulties for Chinese immigrants, and Hollywood. It’s full of history. It’s full of drama. The character dynamics and development are realistic and astounding. It’s a very intense read.
  20. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    — WOW. While reading this book, that was easily the most prevalent thought in my head. Just, WOW. Yes, in all capitals too. This story put my brain on capslock. This tale of a man with a time-traveling ability that he can’t control and his romance with his wife is just so intricately woven and mind-blowing. The way it all comes to fit together will undoubtedly leave you amazed. Though, crying may or may not (but probably will) happen.
  21. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
    — I think I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages, but only just got around to reading it with this reading goal motivating me. I have no clue why I never read it sooner, because it was fun. It’s like an even darker version of Alice in Wonderland. It’s full of that same seedy and ghastly nonsensical whimsy. Full of characters to love, and more characters to love to hate. It’s peculiar, and mind-boggling, and the twists never stop coming. I would read it again. I likely will.
  22. The Ruins – Scott Smith
    — A superb horror story! Downright chilling and creepy and gruesome. A total psychological mind-fuck, pardon my French. And it definitely leaves you with the typical thought: what would I do? Me? I’d probably die of fear before anything got me, honestly.
  23. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
    — Definitely a new way to tell a story, The Lovely Bones kills off the narrator in the very first sentence. That’s right, the entire story is shared by a dead girl, omniscient from her seat in her heaven. Sebold doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery. She’s not scared of dark and terrifying characters. And she’s a master at exploring the roles and development of the people effected by this death.
  24. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    — A classic. Admittedly, I’ve tried to read this book a couple times before. I stole it ages ago from the library of my high school (whoops?) because it was the sort of book that I thought intelligent people should read, but I wasn’t able to get into it. I tried again some time later and it seemed to go right over my head. However, third time was the charm and I was hooked right away. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about reading. Plus, that Mister Darcy sure is a dick, but he still somehow got me swooning by the end. Elizabeth Bennett? One strong woman that I had no problems getting behind to support. I loved it, I loved this book!
  25. Horns – Joe Hill
    — This man is a master of creepiness and mind-fuckery. Horns was undoubtedly chock full of his signature strange. It’s weird to find yourself supporting a man that’s clearly meant to be the equivalent of the devil, but there you go. You can sort of adore Ig, and you can definitely feel sorry for him. And the villain is one mad, creepy sonuvagun… so you can’t much help but love him either, because wtf?! Guy is bad. Also, guess who just found out that there’s a movie set to be released of Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple? Guess who’s totally going to be checking that out? Damn right.