|Image Credit: Abhi Sharma|
The year is almost over, and you know what that means: it’s time to write our “Best of” lists and anger people with our terrible choices. But fear not! My impeccable taste guarantees a list filled with nothing but great recommendations… That, and I’m aware of how obnoxious and pretentious some of these lists are, which is why this year I’m going with “Favorites” instead of “Best”. So even if you violently disagree with me, at least you know that I consider this my list and not the list.
Before I get to it, though, I wanted to thank you all for the wonderful year I’ve had. I know I was a bit of a slacker, yet you’re still here even when I only blog once a month. But consistent or not, 2013 was a lot of fun and that’s all thanks to you blogger/twitter/reader/author friends who make the Internet welcoming, interesting and highly addictive.
I’ll resume my not-so-regularly scheduled blogging next month, but in the meantime I leave you with my favorite books of the year (in no particular order). Let me know if any of your favorites made the list.
The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry
I read this one in January and I immediately knew it would be on this list. It features two mature characters who know themselves and what they want. The romance felt organic, real and fresh in its simplicity. And of course, there’s the interesting role reversal. Wonderful!
Down London Road by Samantha Young
Down London Road is pretty much the opposite of Mayberry’s book: the characters may or may not know what they want, but they sure don’t know how to ask for it or even communicate with each other. They are also quite young and not particularly experienced or mature. And yet, I loved every single page of it. I had a strong emotional response to it and even though I recognize its shortcomings, I can’t deny that it’s one of the most memorable stories I read this year.
As you know, Historical Romance isn’t my sub-genre of choice, but I read a few winners this year (The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas, Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers) all of which could be on this list. The reason why I chose The Sword Dancer was its two wonderful main characters whose tragic pasts didn’t stop them from living and enjoying life and love; characters that could very well be described as “kickass” or “feisty” *shudders* and yet managed to avoid stereotypes by the sheer richness of their characterization. If you haven’t discovered Ms. Lin’s wonderful books, The Sword Dancer is a great place to start.
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Another book I didn’t have time to review, but that I loved so much I wish I could read it for the first time again.
As usual with Ms. Kearsley’s books, the writing is so beautiful, evocative and rich, that the story sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until way after finishing the book. I mean, it’s been months and I’m still thinking about it! It’s a story about courage, loyalty and finding family in unlikely places. And it’s the most romantic book I read this year.
One caveat, though, read The Winter Sea first. These are loosely connected books, but trust me, reading them in order improves the experience quite a bit.
Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook
You guys, it’s the end of an era! *wails*
I’m hiding this one in the middle of the list, because I’ve been fangirling it forever and I don’t want to be annoying, but it should be on top, because Guardian Demon is my favorite book of the year (and to be honest, one of the best).
To me, 2013 was the Year of Guardian Demon. I have been waiting, theorizing and expecting it for years, and I’m pleased to say that it didn't break under the weight of such impossible expectations; it was everything I was hoping it would be and more. It also brought me joy, satisfaction and closure.
If you’re not convinced, here are the eight main reasons why you should read the series.
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Another book I didn’t properly review, but that I think everyone should read.
One of the reasons why I read YA is because I find complex parent-child relationships fascinating and incredibly appealing. Doller’s debut novel was a 2012 favorite, and here she is once again.
Where the Stars Still Shine is deeply romantic but it’s not a romance. At its core, it has a heartfelt, yet difficult relationship between a lost teenager who never had the opportunity to be a teen or even a daugher, and a lost father who never had the opportunity to be a father. It has an ending that may not be perfect for the reader, but it’s exactly what every character needed, demonstrating that Doller remains true to her characters and story even if that means not following conventions and not meeting expectations. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.
The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
Speaking of complex parent-child relationships, The Reece Malcolm List also tells the story of a lost daughter and the mother who, unlike Doller’s book, chose not to be a mother. But when life forces them together, the daughter must come to terms with the clash between expectations and reality, and the mother most come to terms with her decisions. It’s nowhere near as serious as it sounds and it even manages to sneak in two romantic interests: the cute one and the wrong one.
Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Both Where the Stars Still Shine and The Reece Malcolm List deal with sex in positive, somewhat healthy, and uncomplicated ways; Uses for Boys does the opposite.
This is a raw portrayal of what sex as a coping mechanism and as substitute of love and care can do to a child (the main character is 13 when she has her first sexual encounter) and how people judge and shame, causing even more damage. It’s sad and quite current, but it’s also hopeful.
Another book I didn’t have time to review, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Ms. Palmer was a new-to-me author and since then, I’ve binge-read most of her books.
Nowhere But Home is a lovely story of family and love, but it’s not sappy or dramatic at all. The women of the story and the way they relate to each other is what makes the book shine, so the somewhat unsatisfactory romance never becomes a problem. Also, it has the most mouthwatering descriptions of food ever. But if you like food --and here’s me cheating-- the Liza Palmer book you should read first is Seeing Me Naked. Not a 2013 release, but her strongest title.
Captive Prince by S.U. Pacat
There are two reasons why Captive Prince made the list: 1. I loved it, and 2. I loved the discussion that surrounded it. I had a great time reading it, but the real fun came when I got to talk about it and see what others had to say (and this includes those who liked it and those who didn’t).
It’s not an easy book to recommend because it’s filled with problematic themes and problematic depictions of said themes, but it was an entertaining and enriching reading experience, one that made me glad to be part of such a smart community so willing to discuss book for days on end.
Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun
Once more, with feeling: Sheltered, innocent woman looking for someone to take her virginity + hunky, commitment-phobe dude willing to devirginize (that’s totally a word) but not marry her = the tropiest trope that ever troped. And in the hands of Ms. Calhoun, it also equals one of the best heroines of the year and a wonderful book.
After Hours by Cara McKenna
And last but not least, we have another book I knew would be on the list the minute I finished it. Cara McKenna, much like Anne Calhoun, really knows how to use sex to develop the characters and tell the story. These two books are great examples of what Erotic Romance is all about, and although some would argue that McKenna’s book is Erotica with a hopeful ending, I found the whole thing (oddly) romantic enough to call it Erotic Romance.