Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Books I Read in 2013

To catch up on previous years:

The Best Books I Read in 2012
The Best Books I Read in 2011
The Best Books I Read in 2010
The Best Books I Read in 2009

If you want to, you can even go to Goodreads and see all the books I read in 2013. Now my favorite reads from 2013, in very particular order:

10. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. I didn't want the Sookie Stackhouse series to end - at least not before Sookie and Bill reconciled and Bill made her his vampire bride - but since it had to, I'm glad Harris did it her way.

Full review here (contains spoilers). This was a book I checked out from my local library.

9. Finding Esta by Shah Wharton. I was pleasantly surprised by this fresh take on contemporary vampire mythology, the debut novel by a talented writer from the U.K.

Full review here (contains minor spoilers). This is an e-book I downloaded from Smashwords on a day when the author gave it away as a free promotion.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  I didn't give this one a full review, but the weekend I checked it out from my local library, I could hardly put it down until I was finished. It's nonfiction, the story of a woman who changed medical history without knowing she did so. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, uneducated tobacco farmer who was pregnant with her son when doctors discovered she had a cervical tumor. After she gave birth, doctors treated her cancer with radiation and, without her knowledge or consent, took a sample of her cancerous cells and kept them alive in the laboratory. This was the first time human cells were ever able to be made "immortal," or grown perpetually in the lab. These cells made a wide variety of medical research possible, and companies profited from that research while the Lacks family was too poor to even afford health insurance. Sadly, Henrietta died an awful, painful death when her cancer rapidly came back despite the radiation treatment - which, in all honesty, was fairly horrific itself - while her children were all still small.

This book is an investigation into the woman behind the cells (known in medical literature as HeLa cells, after Henrietta), her legacy, and how medical science as a business and as a pure science can improve its ethics and treatment of human beings. I chose this because it was the book of the year at the college from which I graduated.

7. In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler. This one is also nonfiction, and again it deals with cancer, although this is a memoir written by a survivor. It's infuriating, difficult, and inspiring.

I didn't write a full review of this one, but you can read a blog post on it here. This is a post about Ensler's spirituality in her memoir. I got this book free from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

6. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. This is the sequel to See's Shanghai Girls, a work of historical fiction set in 20th-century China and then in the United States, exploring the world of two immigrant sisters, Pearl and May. Shanghai Girls is a beloved book in my family, read first by my grandmother, then by my mother, then by me. At the end of the first book, Pearl's daughter Joy impulsively moves to China. Dreams of Joy relates the story of what happens to her there, and what happens to Pearl as she goes to (she assumes) rescue Joy. I never wrote a full review; I don't know what to say except it was very good, and also very hard in places.

I purchased a used hardcover of this book at a library book sale.

5. Lover at Last by J.R. Ward. I'm hopelessly addicted to Ward's paranormal romance series with the warrior-vampires. I love all the couples, but I was SO ready for this, the only book in the series to focus on a male-male couple. They're Blay and Qhuinn, and their partnership gives me a lot of feels. I've wanted them to be together since Blay first expressed feelings for his friend, but Qhuinn was being such a jerk about it. All that angst is resolved now, though, and Team Qhuay is officially a thing.

Full review here (includes spoilers). This is a book I checked out from the public library. 

4. The Divergent Trilogy (I'm kind of cheating here, but I'm going to count them all as one book) by Veronica Roth. For those of you fresh to this young adult/dystopian series, I'm not going to spoil anything here. Let's just say that if you liked the Hunger Games trilogy, you're going to be equally enthusiastic about young Beatrice "Tris" Prior and her cohort.

I bought a paperback Divergent at Barnes and Noble, checked out Insurgent from the local library, and bought Allegiant as an e-book for my Nook. 

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Hazel Grace Lancaster is just a normal teen with cancer, a young woman who's already outlived her life expectancy thanks to a "miracle drug." She doesn't love the cancer support group, but she does fall in love there, with Augustus Waters, a brilliant, witty, kind young man who lost a leg to bone cancer that's now in remission. This is an important literary novel disguised as YA fiction, and I cannot wait to see the movie.

I never wrote a full review of this novel, mostly because it gives me so many feelings, I become an inarticulate sniffling mass. I paid full retail for this hardcover at a store that was not a bookstore, because I had a gift card. After I read it, my grandma read it. She liked it, too, and she's not one to read YA books normally. 

2. Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck. Historical fiction set in Key West in the 1930s, with a Cuban-American protagonist who's kind of in a love triangle with Ernest Hemingway? It's perfection.

I didn't write a formal review of this book on this blog, but I did discuss the first half of it here. I received this one through the Vine program in exchange for a review.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Without realizing it, I checked an abridged version out of the library. I wish I'd read the unabridged version, because after 800 pages, I still wanted more of this classic. The story is compelling and the characterization is interesting. It's everything you could ask for from a dead Frenchman.

Full review here (contains spoilers). I read this as a library book, and then subsequently purchased a used paperback of the unabridged version at a library book sale. 

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