ABC’s Favorite Reads 2013, part 4: Simone, Lilia, Nyjolene

It’s my favorite part of the blogging year: our favorite reads! The ABC staff has looked through all the books and magazines they’ve read over the past year, or games they played, or stationery they used, and picked out their top 5 (or 4, or 8). Every single item in these posts comes highly recommended, and we hope to add some ideas to your 2014 reading list.

Of course, we always love reading tips ourselves, too, and so we hope you will send in YOUR favorite reads of 2013 to us. They don’t have to be books published in 2013, just read in 2013. Please mail your Top 5 (and why these books were so good) to social@abc.nl by December 31st, and don’t forget to include your home address so we can send you an ABC gift certificate in the new year as a thank you. As has become a tradition, your Top 5s will be published in January.

This fourth Favorite Reads post comes courtesy of

Enjoy!

Simone

The Rain Before It Falls – Jonathan Coe (ebook here)
A truly wonderful and impressive story about an elderly lady who leaves behind audio cassette tapes on which she has recorded her memories of a long lost family member, who she was unable to find in her later years. Both the story and the way in which it is told is really convincing. When you hear the woman telling the stories of the past, to the machine, guided by postcards and photographs, it is both unique and heartbreaking.

The Concrete Blonde – Michael Connelly
I have become a Connelly convert in 2013, and this book is a very good one: a court case story and a developing investigation are told side-by-side in this rollercoaster novel. (The Lincoln Lawyer was a close second this year!)

Sight Reading – Daphne Kalotay
The second novel by Kalotay, is again a combination of a good setting (classical music this time) and a personal tragedy. You can read my review here. I will be looking forward to her third novel!

Fortune’s Rocks – Anita Shreve
Anita Shreve is an expert in describing small personal events and tragedies. I love that kind of internal turmoil and description. Fortune’s Rocks is the tale of a young girl who falls in love with an older, married doctor, in the early 20th century. The personal troubles against the background of society’s morals is fascinating.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? – Lorrie Moore (ebook here)
I really enjoy Lorrie Moore’s style of writing. It is light in a way, but very full as well. Her sentences are funny, and rich, and her observations are very unique and surprising. Try one of her books next year!

Lília

Heart of Obsidian – Nalini Singh (ebook here)
Beautifully done. Made me love a character for whom I had previously had no sympathy whatsoever.

Shades of Milk and Honey (ebook here), Glamour in Glass (ebook here) and Without a Summer (no ebook yet)- Mary Robinette Kowal
Really wonderfully written. The first part got so much of my attention and interest that I had to read all her 3 books right away.
Blogmistress’s note: a paperback edition of Without a Summer is expected in January.

Lover at Last – J.R. Ward (ebook here)
The whole Black Dagger series is really good, but it is amazing how she pulls off a romance starring a gay male couple for an audience of heterosexual women.

Saga volume 1 & volume 2 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona K. Staples
I’m not much into graphic novels, but this one is quite catching.

Viral Nation – Shaunta Grimes
How do you make a heroine with autism be interesting? Shaunta Grimes makes it possible and believable.

Nyjolene

The School for Good & Evil – Soman Chainani
I loved this book!! The idea of the book was funny, but not as detailed as I would have liked it to be.
Each year 2 children in a village that you can never leave get snatched away to go to the school for Good & Evil. They then end up in the fairy tales that the children in the village read.
The things that happen at the school are fantastic!
The main characters are put down so well throughout the story!
That’s what I found brilliant, how the characters could have easily been very predictable in their development, but somehow Chaniani is able to keep their behavior constant yet believable and understandable too…
The story turns out to be darker that I expected it to be, and yet not complete enough in the details for it to get 5 stars, but I was hooked. I really loved it!
Blogmistress’s note: read Daisy Craigg’s You Review here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
My best friend insisted I read this book. She even came to the store and bought it for me, so she was sure it wouldn’t end up on a ‘one-day-I’ll-read-this wish list’.
I honestly was doubtful at first… It was such a hype, and I couldn’t imagine a book with that title, and selling that well, appealing to me….
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I loved it so much! (After 25 years of knowing me, my friend has a clear idea of what I like :-).)
It’s fun to read how someone tries to make herself happier in practical ways with to do lists and monthly goals… It really is a fantastic book.
Grechen is honest about the fact that some ideas don’t work for her and others do, but it inspires you to take on a similar project for yourself! (Which I have done :D)
I really enjoyed it, and recommend it to anyone who wants to give a higher level of happiness a try, no matter how happy you already are.

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse (ebook here)

I loved this book. But as my colleague hated it I wondered more than I usually would why I’d enjoyed it so much.
The thing is, it’s about the crusades, and all the horrid things that happened in that time. It makes clear that they had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with conquering lands and wiping out opinions that were not appreciated. The way that was done and is described in the book is brutal and unfair, really ugly and without a happy end, but that makes it very realistic for me, even though it’s a book of fiction with magical elements in it. It gave me a clear idea of what could have happened at that time. It was heavy to read, but I’m happy I did.

The Restaurant of Love Regained – Ito Ogawa
I picked up this book and thought… let’s give it a try.
It was beautiful! From the moment I started it I was completely sucked into the story, and though I couldn’t get a clear idea of the time in which the story took place, or the country for that matter, I was very able to imagine the circumstances and the relationships between the characters… Not only did I like the main character of the story, but I could relate to her love of food, cooking, and how they can influence and heal people. A real joy to read.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh
Every time I pick up this book and read a little, I can’t stop laughing!
I laugh sooo loud, and it’s soooo very funny, that it deserved a spot on my top 5 list (and I read about 30 books this year, so that’s saying something :-)).
It’s completely my sense of humor… I wasn’t impressed by the pictures (didn’t like them much… until I actually started to read…. FUNNY!!)
If you don’t crack up when reading the back of the book, or the introduction… then it’s not for you… but me… I found it instantly hilarious!