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Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013

As it’s now near the end of 2013, I feel it’s about time I did my review of the top books I read this year.  First of all, some statistics.  According to GoodReads, I have read an incredible 115 books this year!  I am certain that this is partly due to Audible and my being able to listen to books during my nightshifts.  As I am moving onto day shifts soon, I suspect my total will drop for next year.  As an item of interest, the longest book I read was A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson at a total of 909 pages.  

So without much further ado, onto the retrospective.  Here, in no particular order, are my favourite books of 2013.

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 41 hours 55 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

A Memory of Light is, of course, the final book in Robert Jordan’s magnum opus The Wheel of Time, completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death.  There was a lot of pressure and expectation on this book; the series has been ongoing for nearly 25 years and had a cast of thousands as well as hundreds of narrative plot threads.  Sanderson was faced with a real challenge to pull this all together and to create a satisfying ending in a world he had not created. While not perfect, I felt the book was a wonderful farewell to much-loved characters and was emotionally satisfying.  

Read my reaction to A Memory of Light. (note: contains spoilers)

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Cinder is a fantastic blend of fairytale and sci-fi.  I loved this book because of the creative concept, the humour, the wonderful characters and witty writing style.  Sci-fi is not my favourite genre, and I was curious to see how well it would integrate with the fairytale world of the Brothers Grimm, but Meyer did a wonderful job on this.  I can wholly recommend it.

Read my full review of Cinder.
 

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Series: Broken Empire #3
Format: eBook
Pages: 593
Genres: Grimdark
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

 Emperor of Thorns is one that really sneaked up on me.  I had disliked Prince of Thorns, the first book in the trilogy, mainly due to the unsympathetic main character.  Reluctantly I was persuaded to read the second book and finally the third.  Due to Lawrence’s wonderful character development I began to really care about Jorg, or at least to understand him better, so the ending came as a real sucker punch to me.  Any book that can leave me feeling as emotionally drained as Emperor of Thorns  has to be worth reading.

Read my full review of Emperor of Thorns

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013Emerald Green by Anthea Bell (translator), Kerstin Gier
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Marisa Calin
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Young Adult
Buy from Audible
The real charm of this and the rest of the Gem Trilogy is the main character Gwyneth.  She is just so charming and engaging it’s hard not be sucked into her story.  The time travel concept is very interesting and well done.  It should be noted that the Gem trilogy is best read as a marathon – the books are not very self-contained so it’s best to read the story as a whole.

Read my full review of Emerald Green.

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: George Guidall
Length: 19 hrs and 43 mins
Genres: Genre Bender
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The concept of The Golem and the Jinni – a golem and a jinni emigrate to late 19th century New York and form a friendship – is very fresh and engaging.  I also loved Wecker’s detailing of the New York of the time, which felt so real, as well as the characterisations and interrelationships between the characters.  This is a wonderfully charming novel that I heartily recommend.

Read my full review of The Golem and the Jinni.

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #2
Also in this series: The Darkest Minds
Format: eBook
Pages: 513 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

I was hooked on this book from the first few chapters I read.  The brisk narrative style kept me turning page after page after page and I was very invested in the characters.  I was intrigued by the dystopian setting and felt it worked very well.  I have yet to read the sequel, but I’m looking forward to it.

Read my full review of The Darkest Minds.

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Eleanor & Park is a sweet coming-of-age romance between two outsiders Eleanor and Park.  I loved Rowell’s writing style and the characters felt very real and engaging.  I could easily imagine meeting Eleanor or Park on the bus into town.  This is the first book of Rowell’s that I have read, but I will certainly read more of her work.

Read my full review of Eleanor & Park.

Reading Roundup – Favourite Books I read in 2013Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Aaron Stanford, Emma Galvin
Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Allegiant is the final book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy.  While not without flaws, Roth’s willingness to break YA dystopian tropes along with engaging characters and a beautiful writing style made this a wonderful, emotional read.

Read my full review of Allegiant. (NB spoilers)

Do you agree with my thoughts?  Let me know in the comments.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Review

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer – ReviewCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a YA sci-fi novel and is the first in a series of four books based on classic fairytales.  This first one is based on Perrault’s Cinderella.  Many elements of the original are incorporated: the persecuted heroine, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, Prince Charming, a ball at the palace, the protagonist’s desire to attend thwarted by her stepmother, the pumpkin turned coach, footwear left on the palace step.

Cinderella is an interesting choice for the basis of a YA novel.  Generally speaking, YA heroines tend to be strong, proactive heroines (we’ll try to forget Bella Swan for a moment).  This fairytale princess is the epitome of a passive character. In part, that is why the tale is so beloved. The idea that a fairy godmother could suddenly whisk you away from your humdrum existence to a life of luxury and privilege is very appealing to many people.  it’s the ultimate rags to riches story.  As a character though Cinderella is, well, boring.  She does very little to earn her happy ending other than to be generally nice.

Fortunately, that is one aspect that Meyer did change for her novel.  Her Cinder is strong, assertive and willing to go after what she wants.  Having said that, just as Cinderella’s innate goodness leads to her life being changed, Meyer’s Cinder’s cyborg nature has a significant influence on her life.  The one major aspect not carried over from the fairytale is the fairy godmother (or magic tree, depending on what version you’re looking at.)  Meyer’s Cinder doesn’t hang around waiting for someone to come along to wave a magic wand to change her life.   Certainly, she starts off the story in a comparatively powerless position, but she doesn’t sit around passively and wait for her fairy godmother to improve her life, she goes out and works for what she needs. She needs transport; she gets out and gets her hands dirty by fixing up a car.  In essence, Cinder is her own fairy godmother.

Like Cinder, Meyer’s Prince Charming has a lot more depth than the prince of the fairytale.  We can see just what a difficult position he is in.  I have the impression that things are only going to become more difficult for Kai as the series progresses.

What I liked

Sci-fi twists of the classic tropes of the tale.  I just loved how Meyer incorporated all the favourite aspects of the original but gave them a wonderful sci-fi twist.  I had such fun playing spot the original.

Wonderful characters. As I have mentioned above, the protagonists of Cinder are such wonderful rich characters and I loved reading about them.

The narration. Rebecca Soler performed the narration for Cinder – as she does for the other two released/soon to be released books in the series.  I absolutely adored her reading of the book.  She gave each of the characters unique voices which fit perfectly with my mental picture of them, and she brought out Cinder’s humour too.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about Cinder – except that it wasn’t long enough!  I’d have happily read a book twice as thick.

As you might have guessed I gave Cinder five stars out of five.

 buy from Kindle, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

five-stars

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Format: eBook
Pages: 433 pages
Genres: Classics, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm free to review from Netgalley.  Growing up in Scotland, my parents often read to me or I read the original, non Disneyfied versions of traditional fairytales.  I can still remember being particularly horrified that, in the traditional version Snow White’s wicked stepmother was forced to wear burning hot iron shoes and to dance until she died and that Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out.  At my university, one of the courses you could choose to study was Traditional Fairy Tales, which demonstrates just how deeply embedded in the European psyche these stories are.

In this collection, Pullman chooses from among the many variants of the traditional stories, occasionally adding his own spin and after each story gives a little background into each tale along with an explanation of what changes he made.  it’s a fascinating read and well worth picking up.

I gave Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm four stars out of five

The Goddess Hunt by Aimee CarterThe Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Series #1
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 298 pages
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
five-stars
Having read and loved Aimee Carter’s Pawn, I decided to check out her Goddess Test series based on Greek Mythology, specifically the Hades/Persephone story.  While I enjoyed The Goddess Test and felt it was a fun read, well written and with engaging characters it didn’t engage me to the same extent that Pawn did.  I will probably pick up the sequels to The Goddess Test at some point though.

I gave The Goddess Test three and a half stars out of five.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken In Time by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #Novella
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Pages: 14 hrs and 57 mins
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
five-stars

In Time is a companion novella to Bracken’s Darkest Minds series and tells the story of Gabe, a young adult who has decided to become a skip tracer – a bounty hunter for escaped Psi children.  Of course, the first kid he tries to recapture is our beloved Suzume…  Like The Darkest Minds, In Time is beautifully written.  Unlike Darkest Minds it’s written from the point of a non Psi person, and one who is taken in by the government’s anti-Psi propaganda.  It’s beautiful to see how his attitude changes through his contact with Zu and that he comes to realise these kids are every bit as human as he.  I would suggest reading Darkest Minds before this as it explains the world more clearly.

I gave In Time five stars out of five.

Through Netgalley I received Under the Radar, a collection of cross-genre samples from Doubleday Canada and Tundra Books.  The first of these is Touched by Fire by Irene Watts, a wonderfully detailed historical novel set in early 20th century New York.  Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire tells the tale of a female pilot in WWII.

From the sample Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston seems to be a contemporary YA coming of age novel.  The sample didn’t grab me personally, but then again that’s not a genre I often read.  Death of a King by Andrew Vanderwal was the sample that intrigued me most.  This time travel historical novel seems to be in a similar vein to Connie Willis’ Oxford time travel series which I adored.  Of course, time travel stories are very execution dependent, but this is one I would be interested in reading in full.

Apparition by Gail Gallant is a supernatural YA ghost story.  it didn’t particularly appeal to me, but if ghost stories are your thing, you may want to check it out.  Thomas Wharton’s Tree of Story is in the epic fantasy genre from what I read in the preview.  The final book in the sampler is Paula Weston’s paranormal romance Shadows.  The main character, Gabe, seems interesting enough, but it is perhaps a little too early to tell from the sample.

If any of these interests you, please check them out at your bookseller of choice.

Added to my library this week

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday there have been a few great deals that I have picked up this week.

I picked up both the Kindle and Audible versions of Pawn, the first in Aimee Carter’s new YA dystopian series.  I absolutely loved it – expect a full review next week.

Ryan Winfield’s Park Service could be an interesting read.  It was less than $1 on Kindle so I decided to give it a go.  i’ve not read it yet, but  the synopsis sounds intriguing: From New York Times bestselling author Ryan Winfield, a thrilling tale of friendship, betrayal, and adventure.
What would you do if everything you had been taught turned out to be a lie? That’s the question fifteen-year-old Aubrey VanHouten must answer when he stumbles onto a post-apocalyptic paradise where the few remaining humans live on the run from deadly drones controlled by a mysterious Park Service.

I’ve been hearing great things about Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, so this week I finally gave in and bought it on Kindle.  In Schwab’s world, the dead are Archived and our heroine must work to prevent their escaping into our world.  From reviews I’ve heard, and from the sample, Schwab’s writing style is very engaging.

Another book I picked up on an excellent deal on Kindle was Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess.  From the synopsis, a group of mismatched teens must band together to save the world from a supernatural threat.  It could be either appallingly bad or very good, but for just over $1 I was happy to take that chance.

I absolutely adored Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so this week I added her Fangirl and Attachments to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Being a sucker for gentle cat mysteries, I added Lending a Paw to my Kindle library.  This appears to be a debut novel for author Laurie Cass, but I am happy to give it a try.

My second pre-order of the week was Dangerous Women, an anthology of short stories collected by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.  The list of contributing authors – including Martin himself! – is incredible; Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Brandon Sanderson…  The theme of the anthology is women kicking ass and taking names, so should be interesting.

One series I’ve been hearing a lot about and keeping an eye on prices is Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.  This week on Kindle the first book was priced at $1.99 so I had to snap it up.  For those of you unfamiliar with Uglies, it’s a YA dystopian series in which everyone undergoes mandatory cosmetic surgery at age 16.  But does the surgery only affect your appearance…?

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is another one I’ve been price watching.  This week the first book, Cinder, is available on Audible for only $6.

The final deal I picked up this week was Pivot Point by Kasie West.  This has a very intriguing premise; whenever our protagonist is faced with a choice, she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes.  That sounds very intriguing.  Thanks to The Perpetual Page Turner for alerting me to this.

Several months back, BBC Radio made a new production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere with a cast list that was off the charts.  It included Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McEvoy, Natalie Dormer.   I’d been keeping an eye out for it on Audible, so when I noticed it last week, I snapped it up.

In Other News

This week Amazon made the entire internet stop for a second and emit a collective “what the…?” when it announced that it is working on PrimeAir in which orders will be delivered within 30 mins by pilotless drones.  it won’t be available for several years (and what are the bets it’s a US only service?) but here is the concept video


However, what I found even more brilliant was the UK bookstore Waterstones’ response –  it announced the Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service:

Enjoy!

four-stars
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