My Year in Reading: Cassie-la’s Cassie-la’s Best and Worst of 2013 Wrap Up

Fairytales for Wilde Girls Black MilkHo, ho, ho, merry 2014!

NAILED IT!

If you know me, you will know that the only New Year’s Resolutions I set for myself are reading based ones. If not, then you do now. Since 2008 when I started keeping track of my literary conquests (when my goal was a mere 50 books for the year) I have been nailing my reading goals. Although most of my other reading resolutions usually fail.

For the second year in a row I set my reading goal at 150 books and for the second year in a row I succeeded in that goal. Although by the skin of my teeth. However, it wasn’t my fault, I had a wedding to plan. My wedding to be precise, so you could imagine why I was a tad busy.

Regardless, I did it!

In 2013 I read a grand total of 150 books (see full visual list HERE), hitting my goal but just barely. 33 of those were novels, 2 were anthologies, 10 were non-fiction, 42 of them were young adult novels, 53 were graphic novels and trades, 6 were middle grade books and 4 were poetry collections or plays.

The Best of the Best:

Big Egos S.G. BrowneBig Egos by S.G. Browne
Recommended for: Anyone who wishes they could be the fictional characters or famous celebrities who are more real to them than actual people.

Ever wanted to have the personality of Indiana Jones? Or Harry Potter? Or Oscar Wilde? Well in the futuristic world of Big Egos you can inject a cocktail into your body that makes that very thing possible. Thought provoking and humorous, S.G. Browne creates a world that you’ll wish were real life. Forget wearing metaphorical masks, this is next generation stuff. After all, a wise man once said that all the world is a stage.

Clockwork Princess - Cassandra ClareClockwork Princess: The Infernal Devices Book 3 by Cassandra Clare
Recommended for: Fans of The Infernal Devices series or anyone who wants the best ending possible from their trilogies.

If you’re a fan of Cassandra Clare but are tired of reading her other series, City of No One Cares About Jace and Clary Anymore, may I suggest the fabulous steampunk fantasy trilogy The Infernal Devices (AKA Will Herondale and That Time it Was Demon Pox). Not only does Clare create characters you will actually care about, but she wraps up the series in one of the most satisfying endings to a trilogy I have ever read. Everyone wins!

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper FfordeThe Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
Recommended for: Lovers of the always amazing Thursday Next who don’t mind a move from the BookWorld and into the fun of time travel.

When we last left our heroine Thursday Next she was dealing with troubles in the BookWorld. This time around Jasper Fforde brings her back to alternate history England where she is tasked with running the Swindon Library. God has revealed he exists, the government is having trouble dealing with the Stupidity Surplus and the Chronoguard realizes that time travel was never invented and thus the technology ceases to exist. Nothing is simple in the world of Thursday Next, which is just how I like it.

HawkeyeHawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon and Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction
Recommended for: Comic readers who enjoy a good color palate and a story that isn’t afraid to take the hero in a completely atypical direction.

This is the story of Hawkeye (mostly Hawkguy) when he isn’t being an Avenger. Meaning he’s continually being beaten up, drinking, being broke, getting bossed around by the other Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) and struggling with his continued existence. This isn’t your Silver Age Hawkeye, kids. Bonus: it’s the most uniquely colored book on the market.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Recommended for: Neil Gaiman fanatics or readers who like their fantasy with a side of deep, metaphorical thoughts.

The hands down best fantasy book of the year came from Mr. Neil Gaiman. The haunting and evocative Ocean at the End of the Lane finds our narrator remembering a childhood full of witches, evil nannies and a duck pond so large it can fit an ocean inside. Part fantasy-horror tale, part exploration of the fickleness of our memories, if you only read one book from 2013, let it be this one. Dare I say it’s my favorite book of Gaiman’s ever? I know, that’s a scary statement to make.

The Humans Matt HaigThe Humans by Matt Haig
Recommended for: Anyone and everyone.

I’ve slowly been working my way through Matt Haig’s catalog and knew that when I was in England I would have to pick up his new book The Humans since I loved the UK cover so much more than the US one. Little did I know I would spend my last evening and the entire flight home devouring the book. The Humans finds an immortal alien living inside the body of mathematician Professor Andrew Martin, who quickly discovers just what it means to be human. Funny and poignant, this is Matt Haig’s must read novel. (Along with The Radleys of course.)

NOS4A2 Joe HillNOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Recommended for: Any fans of horror, vampires, Christmas or just the ultimately strange and weird worlds of Joe Hill.

Man, 2013 was a wonderful year for books. Also out this last year was the horrifying and inventive NOS4A2, which follows the tale of charismatic villain Charles Talent Manx III as he takes children away to Christmasland, where they can live celebrating Christmas forever. That is until the tough as nails Vic “the Brat” and her Raleigh Tuff Burner learn to track him across the inspace and save the children he has stolen from a fate worse than death. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but so too is Christmasland.

Young Avengers 1Young Avengers Vol. 1: Style > Substance and Young Avengers Vol. 2: Alternative Cultures by Kieron Gillen
Recommended for: Avengers enthusiasts who wish their heroes were a little funnier and a whole lot sassier.

Young, sassy and hip, it’s up to the Young Avengers to take down the world-destroying Mother who holds sway over the adults of the multi-verses. Featuring spunky Kid Loki, even more Kate Bishop, bacon divination, intriguing panel arrangements and enough meta and 4th wall breaking to sate the comic non-purist in you. The only downside is that while the individual comics hilariously recap the events through a fake tumblr called yamblr, this is missing for obvious reasons from the trade collections.

Punk Rock JesusPunk Rock Jesus by Sean Gordon Murphy
Recommended for: If you love well-written comics and graphic novels, read this now. NOW!

In a bid to make reality television more interesting, one network takes DNA from the supposed Jesus (yes, that Jesus) and clones him inside the body of a virgin for the enjoyment of the nation. However, things take a nasty turn with Jesus and in the midst of his spunky teen phase goes through a rebellion that has him re-brand himself as the new messiah: Punk Rock Jesus. Thought-provokingly told from the perspective of Jesus’ bodyguard, this is a graphic novel that should be on the must read list for all comic fans.

Fairytales for Wilde Girl Allyse NearFairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
Recommended for: Fantasy fans with a preference for fairy tales and Oscar Wilde.

Sadly US readers, this one isn’t out in the United States yet, I was only able to get my hands on it through a friend of a friend who lives in Australia. But if you do know someone who lives down under, see if they can pick up a copy for you. It’s a fairy tale for fans of horror and fantasy alike, focusing on the secrets that are so terrible we even keep them from ourselves. Featuring dead girls in cages, ghosts, vengeful mermaids, furies and a heroine everyone wishes they could be: Isola Wilde.

Poor Yorick - Ryan NorthPoor Yorick by Ryan North
Recommended for: Shakespeare lovers galore, particularly fans of Hamlet who can accurately quote the famous line, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio…”

In case you missed it, Ryan North crowd-funded the highly successful To Be or Not to Be, a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet. In conjunction with that was this prequel mini-adventure which pits you (Yorick) on a quest to get a job at the castle working as a court jester so you can become a skull in the Shakespearean classic. Laugh out loud hilarious, if you enjoyed To Be or Not to Be, this is a fun little diversion for you.

Before I Fall Lauren OliverBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Recommended for: Young adult fans who would like the trope of the spoiled rich girl learning to be a better person.

In the highly inventive novel Before I Fall, popular girl Samantha Kingston must relive the last day of her life Groundhog Day style, and quickly realizes that things she thought were trivial in fact had lasting consequences for those around her. If 13 Reasons Why made you cry, get ready for the water works with Oliver’s fabulous look at life, death and the effect we have on the people around us. It’s a testament to Oliver’s writing that she can make the same day repeated over and over again remain ultimately interesting.

X-Treme X-MenX-Treme X-Men Vol. 1: Xavier Must Die! and X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2: You Can’t Go Home Again by Greg Pak
Recommended for: Comic book fans with a fondness for alternate dimensions.

X-Treme X-Men was one of the strangest runs out there, but I’m sad to see it go. The premise of the book while not simple was extremely fun, a team led by Dazzler (awesome Dazzler not disco Dazzler) must travel from dimension to dimension killing all the evil Xaviers led in their quest by giant floating head Xavier. Also starring: Wolverine/James Howlett, the Governor-General over the Dominion of Canada who is having a secret love affair with Hercules, giant space whale Xavier, murderous cupcake unicorns and so many more shenanigans.

Fangirl Rainbow RowellFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Recommended for: Fangirls of all ages, but especially any ones with a special fondness for a boy wizard or two.

Fangirl tells the story of prolific fanfiction writer Cath, who is obsessed with the series about orphaned wizard Simon Snow and what she perceives as the romance with his arch-nemesis/vampire Baz at the Watford School of Magicks. Are your Harry Potter senses tingling? Cath’s coming of age story is engaging – especially as a parallel to her identical twin Wren – but so too is the story within the story. In fact, can we get an entire hilarious Simon Snow series? Come on Rainbow, it can be our Christmas and birthday present for 2014.

Vicious V.E. SchwabVicious by V.E. Schwab
Recommended for: Readers who know that there is no good and evil in the real world but merely shades of grey.

Superheroes and supervillains find themselves pitted against one another in this inventive new book, but who is really the hero and who is the villain? Is something still a good deed if the intentions are good but the actions themselves are bad? In the world of Vicious, these are the questions characters face as anyone who survives a near death experiences discovers that they have gained other-worldly powers, branding them as EOs, also known as Extra-Ordinaries.

The ArchivedThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Recommended for: YA readers looking for something a little darker and more sinister with a richly built world.

Yes, Victoria Schwab and V.E. Schwab are the same person in case you were wondering. In this young adult novel (Victoria writes under the V.E. handle for her adult novels) Mac is a Keeper, in charge of keeping Histories (the shells of the deceased) inside the Archive (a library of the dead) if and when they awaken. It’s not all gloom and doom though, she’s helped along in her journey by aLibrarian named Roland, a youngish Scottish man with a fondness for Converse who Schwab has confirmed is based on David Tennant’s 10th Doctor. Fabulous!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Robin SloanMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Recommended for: All bibliophiles regardless of what genre you enjoy.

I expected this book to be solely about a 24-hour bookstore and the strange citizens who inhabit it. What I didn’t expect was an ancient literary mystery that would make The DaVinci Code ashamed to exist. Regardless of this little hiccup, that didn’t change my enjoyment of the plot. Nor did the integration of technology (Sloan is a big fan of the idea of technology), which only helped to strengthen the overarching plot of humanity’s quest for immortality, be it literal or figurative.

The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly ThompsonThe Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson
Recommended for: Anyone looking for some kick-ass females with a Faith and Buffy dynamic to their relationship.

This was yet another Kickstarter project, one which didn’t get published traditionally because it was deemed too violent for the young adult sphere but too juvenile for the adult world. It features two girls, protagonist Bonnie Braverman and antagonist Lola LeFever, super-powered women who are drawn to one another, one with the intent to save and heal, the other to destroy and kill. Unfortunately for the world, their destinies are intertwined and one day soon they will come face to face.

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn TurgeonThe Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
Recommended for: Fractured fairy tale enthusiasts who don’t mind a darker take on their beloved stories.

Hands down The Fairest of Them All is one of the most inventive fractured fairy tales I have read, and I have read a lot of fractured fairy tales. For a while there I almost exclusively read fractured fairy tales. What sets Fairest apart from the rest is that it deftly weaves the tales of Rapunzel and Snow White into one narrative, telling the story from the POV of the supposed Evil Stepmother. Not only that but it’s written in an incredibly rich and enticing way. Get on this fairy tale enthusiasts!

The 5th Wave Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Recommended for
: Non science fiction fans looking for a more humanistic take on the genre.

I am generally not a huge fan of sci-fi novels, but The 5th Wave (as with The Humans) had me changing my tune. In fact it was one of my favorite YA novels of the year, regardless of the fact that it was stuffed full of aliens. Yancey sets the tone straight from the epigraph and paints a vivid picture of the day the Others arrived and humanity was forced to deal with the knowledge that they are not alone. Even more harrowing, they have to fight for their right to continue to live in the universe. Action packed and thrilling, if you can look past the cheesy love story you’re golden.

The Worst of the Worst:

Dualed by Elsie Chapman (The premise- two versions of yourself fight for the right to live in a dystopian society- was amazing, the execution of that premise? Not so much.)
Towering by Alex Flinn (A different take on the tale of Rapunzel was poorly written and difficult to slog through. Check out The Fairest of Them All, a book that gets this fairy tale right instead.)
No Place Like Oz: A Prequel Novella to Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (A very spoiled teenaged Dorothy returns to Oz, harnesses magic, and terrorizes fans with her out of character antics.)
Broken by A.E. Rought (This retelling of Frankenstein is both predictable in terms of plot and painful in what it does to the original Shelley story.)
Zom-B by Darren Shan (The son of a racist and a sort-of racist himself gets caught in the zombie apocalypse, but you won’t care if he lives or not.)
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter (Contrived and painful take on the world of Wonderland but with 100% more zombies and cringe inducing romances. Blech.)
Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger (Takes the original story and ruins everything that made it so special. Also, Miranda Priestly is barely in it.)

My 2013 Reading Resolutions included reading 150 books (SUCCEEDED BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH), whittling down my side table to-read pile (I WAS DOING GOOD FOR A HOT SECOND THERE), finishing any books I borrowed from friends and family (YOU’RE WELCOME EVERYONE, SORRY MOM!) and also to complete some older unread books on my shelves (AGAIN, FAIL!).

So in order to actually accomplish something in 2014 I would once again like to read at least 150 books and attempt yet again to eliminate the multiple piles of books I seem to collect around my home.

For other possible reading resolution ideas, check out a post I wrote on the subject over on the Quirk Books blog. Yeah, I know, I know, shameless self-promotion.

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