I'm hopelessly behind on all my End of 2013 posts and e-mails, so if you're expecting a reply or something TODAY IS THE DAY. I thought I'd kick off with a list of the absolute best books I read in 2013.
As always, I'm only using books I read for the first time last year - so no bleating about how so-and-so book was released in 2008 or whatever please. It's not going to be easy though - I read some truly great books and picking only ten might be difficult!
See my 2012 list here.
1) The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder by J.W. Ironmonger
I just can't believe I haven't convinced anybody to read this yet - do you know how much that hurts me!?
Well, not really. But The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder is a genuinely brilliant and unique book - an eccentric young man secludes himself from society in an attempt to catalogue everything in his brain. It's moving and just perfect.
'The ending is one of the best I've read, ever. I wasn't sure whether to cry or throw up or what, but my heart was hammering and my fingers were gripping the sides of the book so hard I left permanent indentations.'
2) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
I'm classing The Lies of Locke Lamora and the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies, as one entry on this list. They're both wonderful (the second may even be better) but it seemed slightly cheatery to use them both.
This starts out really, ridiculously slowly due to the sheer amount of background information you're given, but as a result it feels as though the world of Camorr actually exists in your head. Persevere with it and you'll be rewarded with a perfect, clever ending and characters I fell in love with.
'It's perfect. Clever and perfect. It's one of the best-written (and perfect!) endings I have ever read. I finished it at 2am and just had to sit there and process everything that had happened. I obviously can't discuss it too much, but it hit me hard in several different ways.'
3) Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I'll admit to having quite low expectations for Wonder - it seemed like a generic middle-grade book on why bullying is bad. Except it's nothing like that at all and I was completely blown away.
I hardly ever find the books that are meant to be 'moving' to be anything vaguely resembling that, but this just broke me. It's lovely.
'I fell completely and totally in love with it by the end of the first paragraph, literally and seriously (because you can never have too many adverbs in one sentence). I never do that. Auggie's voice was just so perfect that something 'clicked' in my head and I settled down to what I knew was going to be a one-sitting read.'
4) A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Yeah, I know. I'm as surprised as you are.
I hated this book. I waved it at Charlotte in the pub and bitched about how long and boring and unreadable it was. The font is tiny, the story is slow and it's burdened by lengthy descriptions about nothing.
But then... about four-fifths of the way through, it morphed into being the best book I've ever read in my life. It's a long book to traipse through, but I swear it's amazing. I know I go on about wonderful endings a lot, but this is the best one of all. I can still almost see it in my head now.
5) Parasite by Mira Grant
Another one that surprised me. I expected a silly YA novel about tapeworms trying to take over the world, but what I received was an intelligent adult novel about the hygiene hypothesis, genome splicing and sentient parasites.
I was completely hooked on Parasite - all I wanted to do was read it, to the exclusion of all other real-life activities. It's fast-paced, unique and completely engrossing. Charlotte was nice enough to buy me a copy of Feed for Christmas, so that will be one of my first 2014 reads!
'There were times when I shook my head at what I thought was a silly twist or lazy writing... only for it to be either a) not what I thought or b) explained so well and so logically that it ended up making perfect sense. Parasite is as far from lazy writing as you can possibly imagine - every plothole, every doubt, every niggle is closed and I cannot think of a single fault with the story.'
6) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Despite already owning it, I doubt I would have read this if it weren't for Ellie Lit Nerd and her Wilkie read-a-long. I'll be forever grateful to her for 'making' me read this as I loved the changing narratives and wonderful characters.
The format has several different characters all relaying what they know about the disappearance of the diamond - they were all present at different times and all have different (very different!) opinions, so it's fascinating to see how they all interlink.
The above six books are the ones that jumped into my head when thinking about this list. I didn't have to consult LibraryThing or scan my shelves - I just knew that they were the best of the best. They're the 'Gold' books, shall we say.
The books below still comprise the remainder of my Top Ten - it's just that they didn't stand out quite as much as the above.
7) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It's very difficult to talk about Gone Girl without revealing the huge plot twist that is revealed fairly early on. It changes the entire concept dramatically but I've never read anything even vaguely similar before.
I've heard that it's going to be a film before long and I'm not convinced that it will work, but I do know that the book is a masterpiece. It's chatty and informal, but at the same time very dark and vaguely psychotic.
'The tension builds and builds, to the point where I was desperate to know what had happened to Amy, while at the same time I almost didn't want to find out... I was too scared of what was going to happen! There are twists piled upon twists in Gone Girl, but every single revelation left me reeling.'
8) N0S4R2 by Joe Hill
The problem with these lists is that I feel the need to justify every choice on here, when sometimes there's no reason other than 'this book is really good.'
I know I've only read N0S4R2 recently, but it's stuck in my head ever since. It's not necessary in the slightest to read it near Christmas, but it has some very dark ideas that work perfectly. It's 650+ pages long and yet I still read the whole thing in two sittings - it's that good.
'N0S4R2 is a very memorable book; I know I'll be thinking about it for months to come. It's a quirky story with certain 'paranormal' aspects, but the truly disturbing parts are the 'real-world' horrors - the serial rapist is described quite avidly, for a start. This book is truly brilliant and I can't recommend it highly enough.'
9) Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass series #2) by Sarah J. Maas
A second book in a series that's just as good as the first!? What is the world coming to?
I remember resenting filing this review under the 'YA' archive, because it may as well be adult fantasy. Not because there's sex or violence, but because it's just written so well. I was devastated when the book finished and I realised it was going to be more than a year before I could read the next one.
This is for anybody that likes fantasy even a little bit, because it's just perfect.
'I truly cared what happened in this because because it's written well enough to make my imagination believe that this story is really happening. There are certain... things that need to be fixed, and I swear I'm not going to sleep until I've read the third book and I know everything is okay. I need that.'
10) The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman
I know this may seem like an odd choice for a 'Best Books of 2013' list, but it really does belong here. Sometimes when you read a non-fiction book, particularly the longer ones, you find it fascinating at the time but it all goes out of your head the second you finish the final page.
Not so here. Harry Houdini is still on my mind and I'm still
'It's well-written, entertaining and impartial (for the most part), so it's an excellent place to learn more about the legend you thought you already knew.'
Well, that's that! What were your best books of 2014?