Leslie's Favorite Reads of 2013: Time Travel, Aliens and, Of Course, Zombies

I actually hit my goal of reading 100 books in 2013, barely squeaking out that last book just a day or two before the end of the year. Despite the long list of reads, I found myself having a difficult time remembering enough awesome books I’d read to justify a Best Books of 2013 list. Nothing immediately jumped to mind like with last year’s list when Feed, Robopocalypse, Dearly, Departed and Cinder refused to let my brain go months after reading them.

Of the 100 books I read, I rated only 1 with a single star and five others with 2 stars. That seems pretty good, right? Another 26 got three stars, though looking at the list, some of those might need to be demoted. The bulk of my reads got 4 stars with 44 books landing in that category. And yet there aren’t that many in the list that I would be happy to revisit.

What was even more bizarre that, of the 24 books I rated 5 stars, not many of them truly got me excited to write another word about them. Most of the year was spent reading the second books in series that didn’t live up to their predecessors or the final books in series that just made me depressed with boredom. Despite that, I was able to pull together a list of 8 books that I could honestly recommend with a happy heart and a clear conscious.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – This was one of only three books that came to mind when I started to compile this list. I was happy to find that Meyer recreated the magic of Cinder despite adding an entirely different story line and a new set of characters. It was difficult to put the book down from beginning to end and it even distracted me from an on-going illness, so you know it must have been good.

Something Strange & Deadly / A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard – I thought I’d read SS&D ages before, not as my first read of 2013, but Darkness was going to be on this list anyway. Dennard created a new sort of zombie thriller with steampunk elements, highly amusing side characters and a truly amazing heroine with a mind of her own and an attitude that was a match to any of her male counterparts. Though Dennard made me wait 200 pages until the dashingly ungentlemanly Daniel made an appearance in the sequel, it didn’t dampen the fun and excitement of the story. I have high hopes for the final book in the series and hope it will break me out of the series ending blues I’ve found myself in.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – The world needs more alien books where the aliens are both creepy and yet certain “bad guys” are steeped in shades of gray. Yancey got my heart pounding and in return I beat the book against my couch repeatedly in my strange way to encourage the characters to RUN FASTER. Despite being the first of a series, there were answers without the explanation police stepping in and yet still so much mystery that I need more NOW!

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman – I discovered Angry Robot publishing in 2013, which is probably the most fortuitous moments of my blogging career. Though vN and iD didn’t make this list, they were some of the most unique and intriguing reads I’ve set my eyes on in ages. Newman’s start to her faerie series, The Split Worlds, left me a little speechless with its vivid world building and her ability to somehow make faeries living concurrently with the real world make sense. It was one of the books I truly couldn’t put down. I can’t believe I haven’t made it on in the series, but that’s definitely a goal for 2014.

Three by Jay Posey – Speaking of Angry Robot, I couldn’t leave this book out of my top of 2013 with a clear conscience. I was blown away with this book and Posey’s narrative style. It is nothing like I’ve read before and takes played out tropes from horror and western genres to mold them into something new and creepy and exciting. And then the ending knocked me off my feet, leaving me stunned and with no idea of where this series is headed. That, of course, just left me wanting more.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – Another book where I had no expectations or idea where things were going to go. That worked out for the best with this twisty time travel story that actually made sense. I wasn’t really able to write much of a review of the book back in August and I write one now because this is one book best read blind. Having no idea what to expect or any preconceived ideas on plot made this an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas – I wasn’t overly enthusiastic for Throne of Glass, probably because by the time I read it, the entire blogosphere was going nuts over it and too many people were comparing it to Game of Thrones. Despite that – because I am a completest that can’t stop a series in the middle – I picked up the sequel and was delighted by its mix of romance and wizardry. Putting Celaena in the awkward position of working for the man she hates most while she falls for the head of the guard made for an exciting set up. COM built extensively on the mythology started in TOG, which combined with the action to become a fun ride full of adventure and drama.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chang – What is a favorites list without one comic series? I read a lot of DC comics this fall, catching up on all my favorite characters’ adventures in the New 52. Unfortunately the Bat Family stories got incredibly convoluted and twisted together, and while Batwoman and Nightwing remain my favorites and Batman & Robin started winning me over towards the end, it was Wonder Woman that really surprised me. Azzarello and Chang surround Diana with mythological gods and fantastical wars between super-powered deities to great and surprising effect. It thrilled me while at the same time making me depressed that no one seems to be able to create a viable film showcasing the awesome that is Wonder Woman. This is unlike any of the other DC comics I picked up this year and it benefits from going a little out there.

In retrospect, my reading list for 2013 was severely lacking in science fiction, which could explain my general blah-ness towards the year’s books. It’s all heavy on YA romance fantasy, so perhaps some adjustments will have to be made for 2014.

What are some of your favorites from 2013? I need some great books to add to my 2014 TBR mountain.