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Best Reads of 2013

I read a lot of books this year. I just haven't finished most of them. According to Goodreads I read ten. There are a few more, since I don't always have time to log on and review. I'm also including one reread and a separate list of top 5 children's books.

I forgot a few of my favorite books at first. I don't know why. Making my list into a top twelve means including most of the books I read this year, but then, I don't push myself to finish reading anything I don't really like unless it's a class requirement. I don't have time to waste on reading anything that I don't like. So most of what I finish reading are good reads anyway. And a lot of it is YA because I rarely have the time and energy to finish leangthy adult novels.

Here are my top twelve adult and YA for 2013, beginning with the best. Actually, I would say that enjoyed all these books about equally. But when I say best I refer to the writing style, plotting, character development, as well as how I personally felt while reading it:

1. The Rope Trick by Lloyd Alexancer - Written by a popular author, toward the end of his career, this is a beautiful novel that appears to be straight historical fiction first but develops some fantastical twists. It is the story of a girl magician named Lidi in medieval Italy. I enjoyed the romance that quietly simmers between her and a young man who is on the run from his vengeful feudal lord. It deals with some real historical issues while revealing some fascinating secrets to traditional magic tricks and slowly weaves in mysticism.

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - Beautifully written futuristic novel about a world where books are outlawed. Any booklover can relate to the main characters, who are clandestine readers. Their dialog is delightful and full of memorable quotes on reading and modern culture.

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - A moving, realistic story of a girl and her family imprisoned in Siberia during World War II. It gives a fairly complete picture of the actual events and types of people involved.

4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick - A clever book with a clever protagonist told in a unique way. The descriptions were amazing. There are some incredible coincidences, but the fairy tale treatment makes them easier to swallow.

5. Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick - A truthful yet inspiring story of a man struggling to recover from a mental disorder. I like how it subtly analyzed various ways people dealt with grief and despair and that ultimately the resolution was effected by an act of the protagonist's will.

6. Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - A detailed speculative fiction romance full of surprising twists. It plays around with the concept of how a man who involuntarily travels through time can live and it deals with some tough relationship issues.

7. Duty and Desire by Pamela Aidan- The second in a series that fills in the blanks of Pride and Prejudice.  I thought it was the best, my husband thought it was the worst. It seems closer to The Hound of the Baskervilles in style than Pride and Prejudice. Still, I like how Darcy's character was developed here. It showed what made him let go of his prejudices against people of a lower class and thus decide Elizabeth was acceptable as a wife. After a suspenseful and sensual tale.

8. Whatever Happened to Janie? by Caroline B. Cooney- This book delves into the feelings of a girl who is reunited with her family after she was kidnapped at three.

9. The Killer's Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux - An unusual book in which a hardened killer turns into a concerned father through a believable process.

10. The Diamond of Darkhold by Jean DuPrau- This is a better written book than the first in its series, The City of Ember. It still has the same lovable protagonists, with a new mystery to solve in the old, now abandoned underground city.

11. The Gawgon and the Boy by Lloyd Alexander - My husband was determined to read all the books by one of his favorite YA authors so he borrowed a whole bunch from the library. This one is a bit different as there isn't a fantasy world or medieval setting here. It's an autobiographical book about a boy who lives in his imagination and his tutor who taps into this imagination to make him interested in his studies.

12. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd- Suspenseful with a twist I almost saw coming but was cleverly diverted from. It's based on The Island of Dr. Moreau which I haven't read. You don't need to have read it to find the premise and the plot compelling.

Reread: The Ice Queen - I first read this the previous year, and while I enjoyed the language, as I always do with an Alice Hoffmann book, and found the descritptions of the unusual ailments of the lightning-struck intriguing, I didn't see the connection of the various events to each other. I'm going to blame the blurb here, as I often do. It emphasized the romance in the book (for marketing purposes, no doubt), and while this was certainly engaging, ultimately that was not what the story was about. I realized it when I was rereading the book after my father's death. The book was really about dealing with guilt related to someone's death. The narrator struggled with self-hatred because of her bitter wish as a child that her mother would never return, following which her mother had a fatal accident. Eventually she redeems herself through helping other characters and heals herself by changing her perspective of this event. 

Children's Books

Girl in a Box by Felinda Bagas - A beautifully written story with evocative illustrations. It is a touching tale of how an orphan finds a home.

A Book by Mordicai Gerstein - Yes, that really is the title. This is a book about a girl who lives in a book and tries to find the story where she fits. This is a book every writer can relate to.

Yours Turly, Shirley by Ann M. Martin - I read this book to see if Ann M. Martin was really any good at writing anything besides Babysitter's Club series books. And it is a good, touching book. I loved the characters. Shirley, who is dyslexic, has a creative mind and gets into all sorts of funny scrapes.

The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech - Really cute, told in a unique way. The unfinished angel has is own funny language and its reflections on people and events are hilarious.

Girls to the Rescue by Bruce Lansky - This book contains some interesting tales, both traditional and new, with strong female protagonists. I like how it used elements of Muslim culture in the retelling of Scheherezade's story, and the subversion of poor girls, especially the Chinese Lian who befriends a unicorn.

As you can see, I was very into suspense last year. Expect to see this reflected in my future books!