Devourer of Books Best Books of 2013

I know some of you think that I’m gone, but I’m not! At least not completely. I’m hoping to talk more over the next week about where I plan to take this blog in 2014 and beyond, but for now I want to wrap up 2013. I can’t tell you how many books I read or how many were audio or anything because sometime in September I sort of stopped actually tracking what I was reading. Oops. It happened around the same time I stopped blogging so much, I’m not really sure what happened there, other than I went on a short trip and didn’t get back into the swing of things when I returned. I do know, though, that I did a whole lot of listening with all the walking, and then running, I did after I got my fitbit back in May (plus a bunch of yard work trying to get our landscaping in some semblance of order). Many of the non-audiobook picks below actually were audiobooks, including all of the nonfiction picks, but despite the fact they were well-narrated I specifically chose some of them for their contribution to the genre rather than their audio production.

Audiobooks

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio, narrated by Leslie Carroll
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, narrated by Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, narrated by Khristine Hvam
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, narrated by Matthew Wolf (links to Audiofile review)
Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer, narrated by Yolonda Ross (links to Audiofile review)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield
Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois, narrated by Emily Rankin (links to Audiofile review)

Historical fiction


The Other Typist by Susanne Rindell
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle
The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne (links to Audiofile review)
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Contemporary and Literary Fiction

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (links to SheKnows feature)
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Driver’s Education by Grant Ginder
The Liar’s Gospel by Naomi Alderman
The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins
The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch (links to Bloggers Recommend blurb)

Middle grade and young adult fiction

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Nonfiction

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

What were your favorite books this year?

Many of the above books were provided to me for review.

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Driver’s Education by Grant Ginder

Driver's EducationSo, here’s the deal. Back in January, this book Driver’s Education came out in hardcover, written by Grant Ginder a guy who was in pretty much half of all my classes in high school. We had far too much fun snarking with one another in the back of our French classes, so I was, understandable, I think, that I was SUPER NERVOUS about reading his book, in case it was terrible or something. I purposely didn’t take a review copy so nobody would know if I had it and would be looking for a review, and then I put off reading it for like 3 months because I was too nervous. I figured with my own copy, I could read it and just NEVER TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN if it was bad.

The problem was, I read it in April and it was FABULOUS and one of the better books I read all year and I STILL didn’t ever write about it because I’m lame and basically a terrible friend from the past and blogger. Now the paperback is out and I am FINALLY rectifying the situation.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

FINN McPHEE EDITS A REALITY TV SHOW. His father, Colin, is a screenwriter. Both are adept at spinning fictions, a skill passed down to them by McPhee patriarch Alistair, whose wild yarns never failed to capture Finn’s youthful imagination – even as they cast a fragile veil over a past marked by devastating loss, unbearable love, and an incessant longing for a life whose heroic proportions could measure up to the breathtakingly vivid color of Alistair’s dreams. As Finn embarks on a road trip across America with his best friend, Randal, and a three-legged cat named Mrs. Dalloway in a last-chance bid to make his grandfather’s dreams come true, he will finally learn that the truth, though not always stranger than fiction, can sometimes make the best story of all.

Here’s the thing. Ginder spins a great story, and the whole thing is wonderful. But I wasn’t expecting what he did with the ending and that took it from a solidly really good book to OMG, THIS IS GREAT YOU GUYS.

So, I was really remiss in not telling you guys about this earlier because then it could have been on some of your best-of lists, but now you know so reeeeead it, please!

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BOOK CLUB Giveaway – Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye

This year we’ve been changing up BOOK CLUB. Gone are the rigid dates, where we announce books on the X Tuesday of the month, discuss them on the Y Tuesday, alternating whose blog the discussion happens on. Instead, Nicole and I will be co-hosting BOOK CLUBs as we find books that we are just dying to discuss with everyone. The next book in our semi-new format is going to be Lyndsay Faye’s Seven for a Secret. I’m excited, partially because I’ve already read it, and it is great, and also because the first book in the series made a great BOOK CLUB last year. Here is the publisher’s description of Seven for a Secret:

Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city’s dark practice – until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the “blackbirders,” who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn’t just legal – it’s law enforcement.When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy’s office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, “My family.”

Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost.

Part of the new book club will include reaching out to more readers. We are now giving away books with the understanding with publishers that there will be a readerly discussion. If you are a blogger and review the book, great! If you are not a blogger, but review the book on LibraryThing or GoodReads, or talk it up on Twitter, wonderful! All we really want, though, is for you to commit to come and discuss it with us.

We will be discussing Seven for a Secret on Nicole’s blog on Tuesday, October 1st (it will be out on September 17th, so even if you don’t win you can still go and pick up a copy and participate). If you would like to be entered to win one of our ten copies (US mailing addresses only, please), please fill out the form below by noon Eastern on Tuesday, September 3rd. Your address WILL be required to win (but will not be used by us for anything but getting your book to you) because we want to get these books to you with quick turn around.

As a note, you don’t have to have read Gods of Gotham to understand Seven for a Secret, but I would recommend starting at the beginning with this series.

Seven for a Secret will be available for sale on September 3rd, so even if you don’t win the book from us, we’d love for you to buy a copy or grab it from the library and join us to discuss it.

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Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy – Book Review

Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy
Published by Berkley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin

This is the fourth book in the Manor House Mystery series, please see my review of the previous books in the series, Grace Under Pressure, Grace Interrupted, and Grace Among Thieves.

For a Manor House Mystery, Julie Hyzy doesn’t put her main character, Grace, into the manor house very much. At the opening of Grace Takes Off, Grace and her boss Bennett are finishing a two week European vacation (for those of you who haven’t read the book, it isn’t like that, Grace and Bennett are not lovers, her mother may have been his illegitimate half sister) by visiting Bennett’s good friend in Italy. When Bennett has the chance to examine a treasure that has much sentimental value for him and his good friend, he reacts oddly. What happens on the flight home proves that Marshfield Manor isn’t the only place that Grace can find herself in mortal danger.

Julie Hyzy does a great job knowing when to remove her characters from their normal surroundings. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that Grace Takes Off be the first book that anyone picks up in the Manor House Mystery series, not least because it assumes that people have read at least some of what comes before, but putting Grace on a plane and giving her conflict there keeps the series fresh – even if the finale does find Grace back in a very familiar position.

Recommended.

For more information, see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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BOOK CLUB Giveaway – The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina

We had a great discussion of Still Midnight, the first book in Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow series, today. I’m really loving this series so far, I had to stop myself from starting the second book, The End of the Wasp Season before the Still Midnight discussion.

Luckily for all of you, we have a few extra copies of The End of the Wasp Season to give away from Hachette for the next discussion, here on July 9th.

To enter, fill out the form below by noon Eastern on Thursday, June 13th.

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