Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Books of 2013 and Year-end Wrap-Up

I read so many good books this year that I had a hard time making this list short! I've read more books than last year too. My reading tastes are still very much eclectic. Two things have changed in my reading habits this year:

1) I bought a Kindle. I like it better than my Kobo. Although I have accumulated a lot of free Kindle books, I still prefer my review copies to be in print format. I just find it a lot easier to rifle through the pages and note things down as I'm writing my reviews, especially for non-fiction books.

2) I'm reading a lot more audiobooks! I read a total of 22 audiobooks this year in comparison to the 8 of last year when I first discovered them. I think I will continue to listen to more and more audio in 2014. I'm hooked!

This year I read a total of 137 books (24 children's, 23 middle-grade, 18 YA, and 72 adult books, of which 22 were non-fiction). You can view my complete list here: Books Read in 2013

Here are my favorite reads of 2013. It doesn't mean they were published this year, only that I read them this year:

In Children's Books
This touching wordless picture book about a young Southern farm girl who discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him is sure to become a classic. 

Tweezle into Everything by Stefanie McLellan
This adorable and heartwarming story celebrates the youngest member of a family beautifully and with fun creative language.

In Middle-Grade:
Silverwing by Kenneth Cole
Full of adventure, plots with twists and turns, great cast of full-fledged characters and wonderful imagery and world-building—that's what a reader can expect from this book. My son and I really got swept away.

The Silver Six by AJ Lieberman & Darren Rawlings
This graphic novel has good messages about family and friendship, encouraging kids to work together  and to understand that even bad people can change.

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler & Keith Hemstreet
The first book in a new series for middle-graders about twin brothers Gannon and Wyatt who travel around the world and log their fun adventures in journal format. The books are based on their real-life adventures. 

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I couldn't put it down. It's packed with Wild West action and adventure and plenty of emotions. The story starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the last page.

In Young Adult:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Refreshing, heartbreaking, intelligent, funny, tragic...This novel is all this and more. A truly anomalous and exceptional book that made me shed quite a few tears.

The False Prince: Book 1 by Jennifer A. Nielsen
An action-adventure YA novel, smartly written, with taut suspense and fantastic twists and turns leading to a breathless ending.

The Runaway King: Book 2 by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This is the second book in the Ascendance trilogy and the sequel to The False Prince, which my daughter and I absolutely loved. Once again, we dove into this book and couldn't put it down!

Trash by Andy Mulligan
Trash is one of those books you read that stays with you for a long time. I read this with my daughter and we both loved its intensity and powerful message of hope and determination in the face of staggering poverty.

Shadows of Glass by Kassy Taylor
I thought this was a great sequel to the first book, Ashes of Twilight. Once again, Tayler is a great storyteller and I loved this book just as much as the first book for all the same reasons. This is one of the best dystopian steampunk trilogies I've read, and I can't wait to read the third book.

In Adult Fiction:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This book was different, thought-provoking, deep, funny, serious and, oh-so-captivating. I read for hours non-stop; something I don't usually do with my frenetic schedule.

Oh, this book was so much fun! What a great mix of the old with the new, whether it was code breaking techniques both ancient and contemporary, or dusty book researches versus Google's mighty search engine and geeky technological savoir faire.

Beautifully written, and filled with the warmth of comfort food, spices and herbs, gardens and orchards, and a loving but conflicted mother-and-daughter relationship, this debut novel is simply a delicious and feel-good read.

Just Ella by Annette K. Larsen
The story of a young girl finding her way in life, of standing up for what she feels is right, a coming of age story. It reminded me of Shannon Hale's YA books. A fairytale with heart and substance. Unputdownable.

There’s no question about it; Moyes is a talented writer who creates believable and unforgettable characters. She knows how to immerse us so fully into a story we don’t want to retreat. She’s a brilliant author and storyteller.

In Non-Fiction:
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff
Have you ever read a thriller novel where extraordinary and harrowing things happen to the characters but somehow they get through it against all odds? Well, that's what it was like reading Frozen in Time, except that it's not fiction; a true-life thrilling story.

However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy
This book was such an inspirational read! There were moments when I was in tears and others when I wanted to whoop for joy. It is a book that every person, but especially women, can appreciate because it is the amazing story of Molly Melching, a fearless woman, known as one of the "most powerful women in women's rights".

The real reason I loved this book? It is foremost a communication book. It is a tool that adults of any age and gender can use to communicate who they are and what makes them happy. In my line of work, communication is key. In marriage communication is key. In the family dynamic communication is key. Which is why I think this book is great.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I really enjoyed reading Rubin's journey, her research on the topic of happiness and applying little ways to bring sunshine into my life. Thanks Rubin! This is a book that I will re-visit again and again.

Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
I love neuroscience. I also love the Holy Scriptures. So what a surprise when Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist in the field of cognitive neuroscience links scientific principles to Scripture. An empowering and fascinating book!

But enough about me.
Here is Sandra's list of faves for 2013:

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
The Trilogy of the Life of Josephine Bonaparte  by Sandra Gulland
Mr. Penumbra's  24-hour Book Store by Robin Sloan
The Little Princes by Conor Grennan
The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
419 by Will Ferguson
Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Finally, I want to thank all my readers and blogger friends who have supported Sandra and me with your heartfelt comments. A big thank you to all the authors, publicists, book tour organizers and publishers who trust us with their books and allow us wonderful hours of reading!

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