Reading is my absolute favorite pastime, and I'm absolutely never, ever without a book. Before I got my Kindle, I was highly dependent on some type of reading light...and often amazed at how many friends' and family members' guest rooms were missing this necessary feature. Cut to me in my p.j.s, creeping through houses late at night, stealing lamps from other rooms. But how can I possibly go to sleep without reading a chapter or two? Or ten? Inconceivable. To me, waiting for an appointment or a doctor running late is enjoyable...because I have my book.
Last year, I listed my favorite books of 2012 by their genre. I'll do the same this year, pulling my favorite 2013 reads from my Goodreads list:
The Bronze Horseman showed up on my Goodreads page as a suggestion based on my love for Outlander, Gone with the Wind, Pillars of the Earth, and The Winter Rose. I had a few doubts when I started--WWII-era Leningrad does not have the same romantic flair as the Scottish highlands of the 18th century--but I am so, so glad I pushed through the opening scene as we meet the family and the Stalin regime announces the Soviet Union is at war. I was literally captivated by this book. Entranced. Obsessed, even...I have found myself talking about it at parties on more than one occasion. Every romance author knows conflict is key...and for a series, there needs to be multiple, believable conflicts. Simons delivers this brilliantly, if painfully. My heart aches for the characters and what they have to go through, and the horrors of war are brought to life by the author's attention to detail and meticulous research. And yet throughout it all, a beautiful and poignant love between two amazing characters endures. I'm almost finished with the second in the series, Tatiana and Alexander, and as soon as I'm done with this post, I'm headed anxiously back into their adventure.
Psychological Suspense/Thrillers: Lexicon by Max Barry
This novel was recommended by several people I trust--otherwise, I'm not sure I would have tried it, based on the blurb describing a school that teaches the 'art of persuasion'. But, these readers share my passion for certain other books, and their excitement had me interested. And then the first page of Lexicon had me hooked. This book is so much more than the description can even attempt to cover. It's a page-turning thriller with dark humor, crisp dialog, powerful romance, ancient mystery, and a frightening look at the possibilities that arise from a dependence on technology and the ease of data collection.
Young Adult: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
I spent most of 2013 writing a YA paranormal romance manuscript. So I tried to read a lot of YA romance novels along the way, to help keep me in the right frame of mind. This one stood out for me by leaps and bounds. The Sea of Tranquility was a stunning debut novel. The usual "insta-love" cliché was deftly avoided, and the reader is allowed to enjoy the anticipation and tension between two compelling characters. While this could result in slow pacing, Millay inserts enough hints at complicated backstories (and trickles the information in as the relationship grows) to keep the suspense level up. These characters were highly developed and believable, the story original and brilliant, and the emotions were raw and authentic. A must-read for romance lovers.
Historical Fiction: Winter of the World by Ken Follett
This is the second book in the amazing Century Trilogy (Fall of Giants, set during WWI, came first). Descendants of the families portrayed in Fall of Giants give the reader a look into the dramatic turmoil and destruction of WWII. Winter of the World is historical fiction at its best, with no departure from the amazing level of intrigue and pacing that I've come to anticipate from Ken Follett. I learn more about history from his books than I ever did in school thanks to his exciting plot twists, interesting details, and character interactions.
These novels are, of course, a fraction of what I read in 2013...but the books listed above are the ones that kept me glued to the pages late into the night...and thinking about the characters when I couldn't be with them. Those are the hallmarks of a great read for me. What were your favorite reads of 2013?