Z711.5 → Favourite Reads of 2013

Let me put this out there right now: I can't believe it's already 2014. I mean, seriously, where has the time gone? As a culmination of this past year (almost a full year of blogging, yay!) I decided to make a post dedicated to my favourite reads of the past 12 months. I realized that while I was making the quarterly posts to keep up to date on what I've read throughout the year, I wasn't necessarily indicating what and/or why I loved the books that I did. Hence, this list. This doesn't necessarily mean that these books were published in 2013 - just that I read them then. So here it is -- a dirty dozen books that I loved way too much this year!

True / Erin McCarthy
[Originally read: April; New Adult]
This was the first New Adult book I read, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was familiar with McCarthy from her romance novels, but this novel brought a completely fresh topic and subject matter to the forefront. I really enjoyed what I saw as a - for lack of a better term - "natural" college experience. That is, being friends with people you may not normally interact with if not for being roommates, and dealing with social struggles. While I do find that too many New Adult novels tend to rely on the bad-boy-is-really-good-at-heart hero and sexual assault plot points, this being the first NA novel I had read it didn't come across as forced to me (perhaps it will to others, though). Overall, I really enjoyed this book to the point that I was actively anticipating McCarthy's follow-up that featured two other characters from this universe.

Heart of steel / Meljean Brook
[Originally read: May; Steampunk Romance]
Back in 2010 I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Iron Duke, the first in the series. I liked the secondary character of Yasmeen, but for whatever reason, it took another 2+ years for me to actually pick up and read her book. I'm so glad I finally did. I love Yasmeen and really enjoyed the deeper look at both her and Archimedes Fox. Fox is such an enjoyable, funny character and provided the perfect balance to the more tightly wound Yasmeen. On top of all that, I loved Brook's further world-building in this steampunk version of Earth and I can't wait to explore the world more in the rest of the series.

A prior engagement / Karina Bliss
[Originally read: June; Contemporary, Harlequin Romance]
This was a surprising read -- in that I was surprised by how much of an emotional punch Bliss packed into what is generally a short, quick read (like most Harlequins are). It's got a lot of well-worn romance tropes: faked amnesia, a reunited couple, and more than a few secrets - but Bliss manages to make it work and make the tropes seem natural to the story. As a romance reader, I know that the HEA is inevitable but Bliss made me wonder just how it was going to happen at the end. There's no quick fix in this book, but it's well worth the read, I think.

Anna and the French kiss / Stephanie Perkins
[Originally read: June; YA]
I didn't expect a lot from this book going in, but I had heard such good things from others about it that I had to give it a shot. What looks like a generic teen romance of rich kids at a boarding school was actually rather sweet and charming. Perkins showed realistic depictions of relationships and how far from perfect they can be. I enjoyed the idea of setting the book in Paris - and liked even more the depiction of Anna struggles with the language. All in all, this was a relatively quick read but packed a punch. Certainly one of my favourite YAs that I've read in a long time.

Slave to sensation / Nalini Singh
[Originally read: June; Paranormal Romance]
I was wary about this, I'll admit. While I love romance, I don't necessarily find myself within the paranormal part of the genre all that much. But there was so much hype over Singh's release of Heart of Obsidian that I knew I had to at least give the Psy-Changeling series a chance. Slave to Sensation is the first in the series, and probably the one that I enjoyed the most. Singh's world-building is fascinating and the emotional characterization of Sascha, the heroine, is wonderful to see. I also really enjoyed that - not just in this book, but in others in the series as well - Singh always seems to know a realistic way out for her characters against seemingly impossible odds.

Defiance / Stephanie Tyler
[Originally read: June; New Adult]
This was a book that I can only imagine what happened in the pitch. I mean, picture this: "Okay, it's New Adult, and it's set in a post-apocalyptic motorcycle club ..." Yeah, that's the best way I put this book in a nutshell -- and it was awesome. This is a book that, I think, you really have to be okay with those tropes. I'm okay with exploring the - let's face it - extremely misogynistic world that is a motorcycle club, and I really appreciated how Tyler navigated that world and balanced it with the portrayal and needs of the heroine. Tyler did a good job of establishing a post-apocalyptic America - though I wish it played a bit of a larger role in the plot. To be honest, this story - about an MC princess returned home - could have been accomplished without the post-apocalyptic setting. However, this is a book that I've already reread a couple times since my first read through - and that's one of the best things I can say about a book.

Shadow and bone / Leigh Bardugo
[Originally read: July; YA]
There are times that I think YA Fantasy books are past their saturation point. And then I read this book. Shadow and Bone really refreshed the genre for me and had the combination of great plot and excellent writing that made the reading fly by. While there is something of a love triangle in the book - an element that seems to be hanging around YA fiction, unfortunately - there's more than a couple twists that I didn't see coming at all that more than made up for it. All in all, this (and its sequel) was a great read that has me heavily anticipating the third in the trilogy that's to be released this year.

About last night / Ruthie Knox
[Originally read: July; Contemporary Romance]
This was such a pleasant surprise to me, that it just had to be included on this list. The hero is the ex-fiance of the heroine's best friend -- a set-up that can be hard to root for in the typical romance novel, but the author handled the situation superbly. It's a case of opposites attract which can be an over-used trope in romance, but Knox executed it well.

It happened one midnight / Julie Anne Long
[Originally read: August; Historical Romance]
Julie Ann Long is always my go-to author for a humourous historical. This is the eighth book in the Pennyroyal Green series which follows the Redmond and Everseas, two warring families in Regency England. Truly, that Long can maintain humourous angles this well into a series. This instalment tells the story of Jonathan Redmond and his absolute desire to avoid marriage of any kind. This is a wonderful little peak into the life of a younger son and his desire to prove his father wrong.

The cuckoo's calling / Robert Galbraith
[Originally read: August; Mystery]
I'll admit: I came to this party after it was revealed to be J.K. Rowling's pseudonym. But still, this was quite an impressive read. I tried to approach this book with a clear head and read it for what it is -- it's hard to really take in a story when one is comparing the writing in a children's fantasy series and that in a hard-boiled mystery. What's more is that I genuinely liked this story and characters. Cormoran Strike is someone I truly want to know more about, and he is someone I found myself rooting for nearly instantly for the first time in a really long time. I can honestly say that I'm excited to read more about him and Robin and their mysteries.

Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell
[Originally read: October; YA]
Oh, Fangirl, how I love you. I've already given a long-form review of the book here, but for a quick recap: this was a funny, quirky - and surprisingly deep - look at freshman college life. Rowell provided an excellent peep at fandom life - especially when it concerns writing fan-fiction - and she just generally nailed the whole thing. If you can't tell: I really, really loved it.

So tough to tame / Victoria Dahl
[Originally read: December; Contemporary Romance]
The feminist in me is always drawn to Victoria Dahl contemporaries because of her heroines. Simply put, they're pretty damn awesome. In So Tough to Tame, Charlie Allington has returned to her hometown of Jackson, Wyoming to lick her wounds after life gets quite rough for her professionally. There, she reconnects with currently-unemployed cowboy Walker Pearce whom she crushed on in highschool. I adored Charlie - she's a free-speaking feminist that isn't at all ashamed of her sexual wants. Walker was a little harder to get a handle on, but I loved his sweet vulnerability that shone through. While the external threats to the couple's happily-ever-after was a little drawn out and unexciting, it was the the couple's fight for that HEA that kept me pulling for them throughout.

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