Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Top Ten Reads of 2013

If you couldn't tell by this blog's name, I'm a literary sort of gal. I'm a reading and writing fool. Now that I'm a grown-up and bound by such inane grown-up responsibilities as working and paying bills, I don't read as much as I used to when I was a carefree child. Back in "the day" I'd read 2 to 3 books a week regularly and had a wallet full of the library cards of all the cities I'd lived in. Now I read at breakfast (when I'm not writing my own fiction, that is) and on my lunch break and in bed at night and...sadly that's about it. I carry my kindle on me at all times, though, for stolen moments of literary pleasure. I don't devour books like I used to, that's for sure. But reading will always be one of my main pleasures.

I read a bunch of books in 2013. Some were traditionally published and some were self-published. Some were new and some were even older than me. Some were written by big names and others by authors you should know but probably don't. Most were good, some were not-so-good. A select few were AMAZING. Here are the top ten!

This Grrrl's Top Ten Reads of 2013

Number 10: Transfection by David Gaughran
Transfection is a science fiction short, available only for the kindle (click here for a copy of your own!). I don't always read science fiction, but when I do I like it to be topical, socially relevant, and to pull no punches. Transfection delivers on all fronts. It deals with the hot-button issue of genetically modified food and, well...I don't really want to say much more for fear of spoiling the shocking ending for you. Just read it. It costs 99 cents and delivers MUCH MORE than the price tag would suggest.

Number 9: The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
In 2013 I rediscovered my childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries and began collecting them. In doing so, I discovered something that was totally new to me: at one point the series had been rewritten and "modernized." Some of the titles, though, have been reprinted in their original form. I've found a couple of these. The Clue of the Tapping Heels was the first. I reviewed it back in June of last year. (Read my review here)
It may seem silly to include such a juvenile book on my top ten list, but the original version of The Clue of the Tapping Heels allowed me to read a beloved classic like it was the first time. How many of us get such a chance? If you can do it, go for it!

Number 8: The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum by Thea Gregory
Funny that earlier I said "I don't always read science fiction" because here's another scifi title. Ha-ha. Life is funny like that. Anyhow...
This is another book that I reviewed on its own, you can read the review here. This book was one of those I read last year that I would say are AMAZING. It's classic space opera but more subtle than most others I have encountered in this genre. And the author has a knack of creating very nuanced characters. Give it a read!

Number 7: John Dies at the End by David Wong
This book was weird. 
That almost seems like a "duh" statement, doesn't it? But it's also the truest statement I could come up with. John Dies at the End is weird. It also lies, a lot. Or changes its mind. Or whatever. For example, John doesn't die at the end. He dies about one-third of the way through. But he remains an active character throughout. So is he really dead? I don't know. I read the whole damned book, and I'm just not sure. The only thing I am sure about is that I enjoyed the book. It gives me a headache to think about it, but it's worth it!

Number 6: Chronic Fear by Scott Nicholson
This book is a follow-up to Nicholson's break-away hit Liquid Fear, which I also loved. The story deals with unethical scientists, deadly drug trials and unscrupulous politicians who aren't hesitant to dope the masses. What's not to like? The novels suck you right in and keep you turning pages 'til the end. I highly recommend them. 

Number 5: Gasher Creek by J. Birch
I downloaded my kindle copy of this book when the author had a free promotion going on. I do that a lot as a poor reader. And if you're a poor reader, too, I suggest you do the same. How else are we to be expected to feed our habits?
But after I read it I wished I hadn't. I wished I had paid the author for his efforts because Gasher Creek was just so good. I feel like I somehow cheated by getting a free copy. Last April I reviewed the book. You can read the review here. 
Do you like Westerns? Read Gasher Creek. Do you hate Westerns but love 3-dimensional characters and settings so real you forget where you are while you're reading? Read Gasher Creek. Trust me on this.

Number 4: The Long Walk by Richard Bachman
The first of you who says "Hey wasn't that really written by Stephen King?" please refer to my original review of this book (right here) and then either shut up or go away.
Thank you.
I'm a HUGE Stephen King fan. But sometimes, when I'm in certain moods, I'm an almost bigger Richard Bachman fan. Richard Bachman's books are nearly obsessed with the darker aspects of the human psyche. You can see it in The Running Man, and in Rage, but I think it's especially present in The Long Walk. They're cynical stories. And while you're reading them, you can forget sometimes that we generally expect the good guy to win in the end. Because why would he? 
The world that Richard Bachman writes about is harsh. And it's one that we recognize. You don't read Richard Bachman to escape. You read Richard Bachman to find a friend who can laugh at the darkness with you.

Number 3: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
I am just going to have to be honest. When I read this, I had already read The Book Thief and I'd already fallen in love with Markus Zusak. So I'm more than a little biased.
No, not I'm-gonna-move-to-Australia-and-become-his-stalker love. But definitely I'm-gonna-read-everything-this-brilliant-author-ever-writes love. Without a doubt. Here, see what other fans have said about I Am the Messenger on amazon: comments! 
Because I feel like the only thing I can possibly contribute to this discussion is fangirly squealing. READ MARKUS ZUSAK! READ MARKUS ZUSAK!

Number 2: The Collection by Bentley Little
I might sort of be cheating with the number 2 and number 1 spots on my list but I don't care.
The Collection by Bentley Little is exactly that: a collection of short stories. I thought at first I should try to find just one or two stories from it to include on this list but I can't. There are just too many good ones to pick from. 
I found this book in my boyfriend Brandon's personal library. (You think I'm exaggerating? I'm not. The man owns thousands of books!) Brandon has a lot of Little's titles, but the author has written many more that he doesn't have. I had never heard of Little before, which surprised me. I like to consider myself well-read and horror is one of my favorite genres. Not sure how he escaped my notice all my life but I'm glad that's over now. The Collection made me a fan.
Stand-out shorts include:
The Sanctuary
The Washingtonians
Full  Moon on Death Row
Confessions of a Corporate Man
The Murmurous Haunt of Flies

Number 1: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Do you see now how I cheated with the number 2 and number 1 spots?
Number 2 was an entire collection and number 1 is a trilogy, so there are well over 10 titles on my top ten reads of 2013 list.
Oh well! If you can't cheat on your own list, whose can you cheat on?

My daughter (who is 17) read the Hunger Games trilogy years ago, as they were being published. And she loved them. My boyfriend, Brandon, read them last year in a weekend. And loved them. I've been meaning to get to them forever it seems, and just kept putting it off. As soon as I started the first book of the trilogy I couldn't believe I had waited for so long. And when I finished the third book, less than a month later (fast for me!), I sobbed like a baby.

Seriously. The last book to make me cry that hard was Push by Sapphire. 

Do I need to tell you what The Hunger Games is about? I doubt it. The books are smash hits, the movies maybe even more so. But I do want to tell you that exciting as the plot is, that wouldn't be enough to land this trilogy on the top spot of my list. What made The Hunger Games my number one read of 2013 was its brutal beauty. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the tale, is no Pollyanna. She's selfish. She's not even that nice to the people who love her the most. But she's so real everyone will identify with her. 

And kudos to the author, Suzanne Collins! She managed to write young adult novels that cover such adult themes as political revolution, genocide, and sex slavery with a tactful finesse that was astonishing to behold. Bravo! 

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