Thursday, December 26, 2013

Favorite reads of 2013

It was a disappointing year for me as far as reading goes. Not because of the quality of the books, mind you, but simply because I had very little time to read, especially later in the year. There are still a number of books – including *gasp* a new book from Neil Gaiman – that I haven’t gotten around to, and I’ve only managed to read about five books in the last six months. That has to be a lifelong low for a guy that’s used to reading at least 40 a year, and it makes me want to cry. Here’s to fixing that problem in the coming year.

That said, I still read some pretty good books this year, so here’s the list. As a reminder, this is in no way a “best of 2013” list (they're not all even from 2013). Even in a good year, I don’t manage to read enough books to even remotely think I’m qualified to name the “best.” These are just my favorite reads of the last year (in alphabetical order by author, not order of preference).

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins. Yes, I’m years late on this trilogy, but I managed to get through it this year. I was intrigued by the first book, disappointed by the second and surprisingly happy with the way that it all ended up. This was the darkest, but most satisfying book of the trilogy for me.

“Trapped” and “Hunted” by Kevin Hearne. A two-book year from Kevin Hearne is always a good one. “Trapped” was entertaining, as usual. “Hunted” was, quite possibly, the best book in the series so far with a couple of real surprises for me.

“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill. I was entranced and inspired by Hill’s first novel, “Heart-Shaped Box,” and have continued to enjoy his work. “NOS4A2,” I thought, was a bit more of a tribute to his famous father than some of his previous work, but he has yet to disappoint me.

“A Memory of Light” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The day that I never thought I’d see arrived in 2013, the end of the Wheel of Time. I had pretty much given up on the series years before, but decided to give it another shot after Jordan’s death. I thought Sanderson did a good job of pulling together a series that had lost its way and giving us hangers-on a satisfying ending.

“Emperor of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence. One of my favorite discoveries of recent years, Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy reached its gripping conclusion this year. The finale was as dark as the previous two books, but with a bit more philosophical thread.

“And Blue Skies from Pain” by Stina Leicht. Leicht’s The Fey and the Fallen series offers an interesting take on urban fantasy. The first book, “Of Blood and Honey,” was almost a historical novel set in the tumultuous Ireland of the 1970s, with only a few supernatural elements. The second book gets down to the business of fey and fallen angels.

“The Republic of Thieves” by Scott Lynch. It was a long wait for fans, but quite worth it. I raved to everyone I knew about Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” and though I was a bit disappointed by the second book of the series, “The Republic of Thieves” really lives up to the first.

“My Life as a White Trash Zombie” by Diana Rowland. Here’s a book that I likely would never have picked up on my own, but I picked it up on the recommendation of Kevin Hearne. Like Hearne’s books, this one is light-hearted, fast-paced and fun, and I really enjoy Rowland’s very different take on the zombie.

“Blood Song” by Anthony Ryan. This was a book that snuck up on me. I started out thinking it was OK, and by the end, I was really blown away. It’s a story that will draw obvious comparisons to Patrick Rothfuss, but Ryan puts a bit of a different spin on it. I look forward to seeing how this will play out.

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey. I prefer swords and magic to space ships and laser beams, so it takes a special science fiction tale to win me over, but Yancey’s interesting take on alien invasion, did just that early in the year. I look forward to the coming tales.

Biggest disappointment
“Dead Ever After” by Charlaine Harris. While a few series gave me very satisfying conclusions this year, this one left me wanting. I had thought at the end of the next to last book that the series was clicking back into focus and expected a solid ending for my dedication over the years. Instead, what I got was kind of a mess with Harris seemingly attempting to reintroduce almost every character from the previous volumes, many of which I didn’t really care about seeing again. By the end, I was just glad it was over.

Favorite re-read of the year
“It” by Stephen King. Given my lack of reading time this year, I probably shouldn’t have spent any on re-reads, but I’m glad I did. I was worried about how “It,” one of the favorite stories from my teen years, would hold up for the 40-year-old version of me. I did find the things that I identified with were a bit different this time around, but I enjoyed it just as much.

What’s on the shelf?
Here are books that you can look for reviews on in the coming months, as well as a few that I’m looking forward to in the coming year.

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” by Neil Gaiman. I can’t believe there’s a Gaiman book that I didn’t make time to read. I’m ashamed. I will fix that as soon as possible.

“Dr. Sleep” by Stephen King. Probably next up on the review list. I wanted to re-read “The Shining” first.

“The Crown Tower” by Michael J. Sullivan. I loved the swashbuckling adventures of Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations, and I look forward to this one.

“Dawnflight” and “Morning’s Journey” by Kim Headlee. I read and reviewed the first edition of “Dawnflight” years ago and enjoyed the take on the Arthurian legends. Now Headlee has updated that tale and added a long-awaited second volume. I’ve had these for a little while and been remiss in not getting to them sooner.

“Raising Steam” by Terry Pratchett. Set for U.S. release in March. Discworld, enough said.

“Prince of Fools” by Mark Lawrence. Another adventure in the world of the Broken Empire, but a different time with different characters. June release.

“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files have yet to disappoint me. Release set for May.

“Shattered” by Kevin Hearne. The seventh volume of the Iron Druid Chronicles arrives in hardcover in June.

“The Infinite Sea” by Rick Yancey. I’ll have to wait until September to see what happens next in Yancey’s alien invasion.

And here’s hoping for a miracle and a new Pat Rothfuss or George R.R. Martin book in 2014. Yeah, about as likely as getting Melanie Rawn’s  “The Captal’s Tower.” ;)


Bob/Sally said...

Good call with Emperor of Thorns. I wasn't thrilled with A Memory of Light - I thought one book was unnecessarily dragged out into three - but it was nice to have an end. As for Scott Lynch, he and I have some serious catching up to do!

Fred Phillips said...

I've been really impressed with Mark Lawrence. Looking forward to the next set of books.

I'll freely admit that with the last three Wheel of Time books, some of the happiness may have just been in having the story move again. I had given up on them because Jordan just seemed to be spinning his wheels. I swear in a couple of the books it felt like nothing at all had happened in 1,200 pages. Sanderson's ending probably could have been more tightly written, but compared to some of those middle books, he was practically racing. ;)

I highly recommend Lynch. I absolutely loved "The Lies of Locke Lamora." The second book didn't impress me as much, but I'm probably in the minority with that opinion. The latest is just as good as the first, IMO.