Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lady C's Best Books Read in 2013

True Confessions: I'm procrastinating a little. I got started on my two big chores for today — Update 2014 calendar, and Write first draft of our family holiday letter — but neither is all that fun and they both feel worky, whereas reflecting on good books is fun and engaging! So, books first (and I'm also baking banana bread), then I'll get back to virtuous boring worky work.

Note: I list every new book I read, and rate it from 0 to 4 (4 is best) — but I've realized that I'm pretty generous with a "3" rating; if I've made it through the whole book, I think I need to justify my effort unless I truly disliked it. So this year I'm only going to list those books I rated 3.5 or higher.

And here they are! Of the 106 new books I read this year, here are the ones that got my highest ratings (listed in the order that I read them):
  • Shadow Creek by Joy Fielding
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (I wrote, "So funny and twisty and suspenseful — could not put it down!")
  • Sheer Abandon by Penny Vincenzi
  • Comfort and Joy by India Knight
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray (YA)
  • Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory (nonfiction)
  • Hell or High Water by Joy Castro (I wrote, "Enjoyed a lot, though it seemed to take a while to get going, and there were a few loose ends — how could she fit in her bridesmaid dress? nothing happened to Little Sister?" Note: I do not remember what any of this means)
  • Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynnne Jonell (middle grade)
  • Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen
  • The View from Mt. Joy by my close personal friend Lorna Landvik! (aka "the blow-job book," according to Brunie)
  • Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen (I wrote, "Another gem from this wonderful author!!")
  • Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster
  • Good Graces by Lesley Kagen
  • Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick (nonfiction)
  • Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
  • Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall*
  • I Can't Complain by Elinor Lipman (nonfiction)
  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin* (I wrote, "Adored! Wanted it to go on and on!")
  • The Elite by Kiera Cass (YA)
  • How It All Began by Penelope Lively*
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman (I wrote, "LOVED! Right up there with her earlier stuff")
  • Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jordan (nonfiction)
  • The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster (nonfiction)
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (YA)
  • Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (YA) (I wrote, "Loved. LOVED. What an adorable, fun, surprising, delightful book!")
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman (YA)
  • The Hate List by Jennifer Brown (YA)
  • Tweet Land of Liberty by Elinor Lipman (nonfiction)
  • Bliss by Lauren Myracle (YA)
  • Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern (YA)
  • Have a Nice Day by Julie Halpern (YA)
  • Family Pictures by Jane Green
  • Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
  • Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham
  • Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City by Holly Denham
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King (I write, "Simply amazing. The ending is sad but inevitable. A beautiful book")
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (YA) (I wrote, "SO. FREAKING. FABULOUS!!!")
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdick (YA)
  • The Girl with Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts (YA)
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (YA)
  • I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (YA)
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (YA)
  • Let I Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
  • The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (YA) (I wrote, "Utterly! Charming! I must now read entire oeuvre of Maureen Johnson)
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA) (I wrote, "LOVED. One of the best, most unexpected, loveliest books I read this year")
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (YA)
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (YA)
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (YA)
  • The House Girl by Tara Conklin
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (I wrote, "LOVED!!!" — in GIANT letters!!! Yeah, I liked this one)
  • The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (technically a reread, but I do not remember a word — and I'm psyched because I acquired much of the series for free so I can have a good wallow in all things Maisie for several days now — fun!)
Clearly this was the year that I discovered Rainbow Rowell, Julie Halpern, and Maureen Johnson, and read everything by Lesley Kagen, and was so happy to see old favorites Elinor Lipman and Stephen King write great, wonderful books again after floundering (IMHO) for a few years.

Also: It's easy to read 106 new books if you read a lot of YA.

I also read some bad, disappointing books this year. Why do you finish the book if it's so bad, Lady C? you could rightly ask, and the answer is simple: Hope. I hope there will be a payoff — because the book has been so well reviewed, because everyone's talking about it, because it was recommended by someone I trust. I live in hope.

Or, if it's a mystery in any way, I simply have to know What Happens.

Here are the five worst books I read in 2013, all of which I gave a single star:
  • The Tell by Hester Kaplan (I wrote, "What a disappointment! I wanted more casino, more from the woman's POV. I did like the dad and his cottage")
  • The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver ("UGH. Unpleasant, unengaging")
  • After Her by Joyce Maynard ("Grim, depressing, no one to like, meandering plot, contrived ending. Such a disappointment!")
  • Total Constant Order by Crissa Jean Chappell (YA) ("Ugh. I so wanted to likes this close-up look at OCD, but I just . . . didn't. Grim and unpleasant")
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud ("Aarggh!!! What a waste of my time. The writing is so skillful, you're swept along, expecting something, something . . . and minute now . . . and the "Big Reveal" comes, and you're all . . . what? That was it? Give me my time back!!!")
Did you read any of these? Agree? Disagree? Let me know! (Blogger Dawn vehemently disagrees with my final choice; we had a lively debate over lunch last Sunday.)

Here's to another great year of books in 2014! (I am most excited about Book 3 in Kiera Cass's excellent YA trilogy. Check 'em out! Highly recommended, even though Aspen's a putz.)

— Lady C, notorious bookworm

* The way I happened upon these three books was interesting. Our library prints a receipt of the books you've checked out and when they're due, and people often leave it tucked in the pages. I enjoy seeing what odd books other people have chosen, but I have never wanted to have what anyone else was having.

Except this one time. Hidden inside Good Graces, a not-well-known book that I loved a lot, was a receipt for Blue Asylum, Mrs. Tom Thumb, and the Penelope Lively book. I'd heard good things about Mrs. Tom Thumb, so I thought — why not? I requested all three and enjoyed them thoroughly. Thanks, anonymous reader, whoever you were!


  1. I still need to finish up my "books read in 2013" blog post. I read 120 books in 2013, a figure somewhat inflated by the Buffy, Angel and Locke & Key graphic novels on the list.

    Our overlap is always minimal!

    I read these: The Diviners, Shelf Discovery (recommended by you; I need to check it out at the library again so I can make a list of what I missed), Blue Asylum, 11/22/63, The Age of Miracles and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

    I ADORED Will Grayson! What a great book! That may be one I need to buy as a keeper.

    Of the books on your list here are the ones on my request list at the library: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, Where'd You Go Bernadette?, Before I Fall, and The Husband's Secret. I just added Fangirl and Eleanor & Park to my list.

    Yay! Books!

    1. We like different books, different drinks, and different men. :)

      Ooh, I really loved all six of those you have on request! Let me know what you think.

      Off to read your latest post now. Look at you, being such a diligent blogger!! Good for you (and us!).