I know we’re already entering spring and I’m a bit late on a year end round up, but I thought I’d share my top reads of 2013. My favorites range from literary to science fiction titles. While none of these books are perfect, I enjoyed reading them.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes’s new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian’s life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.
Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?
This story was awesome. Really. It was so good I thought I’d try another of Barnes’ books.
England, England by Julian Barnes
Imagine an England where all the pubs are quaint, where the Windsors behave themselves (mostly), where the cliffs of Dover are actually white, and where Robin Hood and his merry men really are merry. This is precisely what visionary tycoon, Sir Jack Pitman, seeks to accomplish on the Isle of Wight, a “destination” where tourists can find replicas of Big Ben (half size), Princess Di’s grave, and even Harrod’s (conveniently located inside the tower of London).
Martha Cochrane, hired as one of Sir Jack’s resident “no-people,” ably assists him in realizing his dream. But when this land of make-believe gradually gets horribly and hilariously out of hand, Martha develops her own vision of the perfect England. Julian Barnes delights us with a novel that is at once a philosophical inquiry, a burst of mischief, and a moving elegy about authenticity and nationality.
Honestly, this one was a bit of a let down. It’s nowhere near the superb level of The Sense of an Ending. I really liked the sections of the book that were dedicated to Martha’s story. It’s the other parts that were a drag. Sir Jack, especially, ruined most of the book for me. And Martha’s boy-toy Paul, who I originally routed for, became one of my least liked characters by the end of the book. This novel only makes my best reads list because Martha was amazing.
Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet #1) by Orson Scott Card
Genre: Science Fiction
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
What can I say? It’s Ender’s Game. A classic. I liked it for reasons I’ll be discussing in a future review. I also disliked Ender because his personality became so cold and robotic as he grew older. I pitied him less. When he was a six-year-old kid crying himself to sleep at night, I was all teary-eyed after reading those chapters. But once Ender hit his teens, I kept wishing he’d rebel. And he sort of did… but even still, his emotions were so robotic. Besides my tiff with Ender’s personality, I found the overall storyline interesting and enjoyed the plot twist at the end.
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction
A peerless American storyteller, Ray Bradbury brings wonders alive. The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury—eighteen startling visions of humankind’s destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin. In this phantasmagoric sideshow, living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Provocative and powerful, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth—as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.
I totally loved this collection of short stories! My favorites were The Veldt, Kaleidoscope, The Rocket Man, The City, and The Illustrated Man. Who wouldn’t love to have living tattoos?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmare.
Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.
This book completely terrified me when I was a child. Mostly because I read this story when I was eight-years-old, and the Dust Witch really freaked me out. But I figured I’d finally grow a spine and try reading this book again. I actually enjoyed it. Even though the Dust Witch still pretty much freaked me out.
Practice Cake (Life in Saltwater City #1) by Dalya Moon
Genre: Young Adult, Romantic Comedy
There’s one thing Maddie finds more tempting than red velvet cake: her coworker, Drew. All it takes is one of his sly winks or a playful hip-check by the cooler, and she’s incinerating the cookies. Her boyfriend would not approve.
When a reality TV crew descends upon the bakery, her simple summer job gets even more complicated. Maddie could become the Bakery Network’s next breakout star, if she can handle the heat of being cast as a show villain. Drew has an alternate idea: run away from everything, with him and his sexy tousled hair. She decides to take the leap, but when she finds out Drew’s been hiding a shocking secret, Maddie looks down at her packed suitcase and takes a moment to think. Should she fly off to Australia with a guy she hardly knows, or should she pick up her suitcase and hit him with it?
It’s a sweet and funny YA romance, and I enjoyed Maddie’s wackiness, her strange friends, and oddball co-workers.
Smart Mouth Waitress (Life in Saltwater City #2) by Dalya Moon
Genre: Young Adult, Romantic Comedy
Perry makes a strong first impression, from her white-girl dreadlocks to her uncensored opinions. When she combs out her dreads on a whim, she catches the eye of a cute guy who’s a regular at The Whistle, the diner where she works as a waitress. He mistakes Perry for someone completely different: the girl of his dreams. Perry tries to become that girl. But it’s so hard to be normal. And eyebrow piercings are so cute.
With her mother down in LA recording her comeback album, Perry’s in charge of the family household, and things are going to change. She starts with paint colors and moves on to doling out retributive punishments for her fifteen-year-old brother.
What Perry really wants, though, is her first boyfriend. She’s eighteen, and it’s about time! Boyfriend candidates include: the cute but quiet restaurant regular, the all-too-willing coworker, or the outgoing artist who’s eager to whip off his clothes and model. One of these guys loves Perry exactly how she is, but how can she tell which one?
This was even better than Dalya Moon’s first Life in Saltwater City novel. Perry is a sassy white-girl with dreadlocks. Gotta love that. And her love interests are adorable.
Deadly Offerings (Deadly Trilogy #1) by Alexa Grace
Genre: Romance, Suspense
Anne Mason thinks she’ll be safe living in the Midwest building a wind farm. She may be dead wrong. Someone is dumping bodies in her corn field and telling Anne they are gifts—for her!
As the body count rises, Anne realizes a cold-blooded serial killer is patiently waiting and watching her every move. And he won’t stop until he ends her life. It is clear there are no limits to this killer’s thirst for revenge or how far he will go to get it.
Michael Brandt, the ruggedly handsome new County Prosecutor, is the last person Anne can trust, but may offer her only chance at survival from a psychopathic killer. But will she survive the passion that rages between them?
This romantic suspense was a blast to read from start to finish. The characters were interesting, the plot was fast-paced and engaging, and the romance was darling. I can’t say this book was fantastic, but I enjoyed the read and plan to check out more books from Alexa Grace.
Well, well. This ends my round up of the best books of 2013. I may have a strange collection here but I typically read whatever catches my interest. Unfortunately, I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked to last year. I just hope to read more in 2014.