Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: A Reader's View

I do this every year. Readers like to talk about what they read and I'm no exception. I ran a review blog for a few years, but wound it up earlier this year to do this instead and I also found I was starting to enjoy reading less when I had to think about what I was going to say in a review.

Although this isn't a review blog I do still read and I sometimes want to share my thoughts with others. In honour of that penchant I thought I'd write about the things I most enjoyed reading in 2013.

People may notice that these books weren't all released this year. This is a list of the things I most enjoyed reading and it's not meant to be representative of the genre, just my own personal taste, so it's not a best of either. I don't do it in any order as such. There are 5 entries this year.

Without further ado, here we go:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

This extraordinary novel first came out in 2011 and it was on everyone's lips at the time. It took me a while to delve deep enough into the TBR pile to actually read it. Once I did I wished I'd done it sooner. I believe it started life as a Nanowrimo project, although the published work was considerably revised from the original concept.

The Night Circus is written wholly in present tense, despite the fact that its narrative moves back and forth over a number of years. It's lyrical and enchanting. The descriptions of the food and acts and seasons are so atmospheric that you can smell and feel them around you as you read. Its not a book one reads, it is a book one experiences.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente.

Cat Valente's Fairyland books started as a fictional concept she mentioned in her novel Palimpsest and became a web publication then were published more widely.

They've introduced an entirely new audience to Cat's books and her marvelous writing. Cat performs magic with words and the adventures of young September in Fairyland far away from her dreary home in post WW II Nebraska are enchanting as she meets up with her old friends like the marid Saturday and the much loved Wyverary (a cross between a wyvern and a library) A through L (better known as Elle).

A word of warning about this the 3rd instalment in the series, it ends on a cliff. However Cat's always been good about getting new ones out and they seem to come along on an annual basis. They're a yearly event I always look forward to.

Poison, Charm & Beauty by Sarah Pinborough.

I know that technically this is three books, not one, but they're all quite short and they really do go together as one book broken into three parts.

What Sarah Pinborough did here was take the stories of Snow White (Poison), Cinderella (Charm) and Sleeping Beauty (Beauty) subvert them wickedly and put them out as this delightfully sexy, funny and dark fairytale. She also managed to get a few other fairytales in there along the way, there are appearances by Aladdin, Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast to name a few.

There are far worse ways to while away a few hours immersed in this delightful story. The best retellings I've read since Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber.

The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis.

Okay, I'm probably cheating again by naming all three books under the one heading, but I can't help it. To me these aren't separate books. They're one broken into three parts for the convenience of marketing. It's also fairly important in this case to note that it's a triptych and not a trilogy. A triptych is usually a work of art that is separated into three panels that when unfolded form one story and that's the case with Milkweed.

The three books are in order: Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil. They all take place in an alternate WW II and Cold War setting and move back and forth through time. There are elements of fantasy and science fiction in them and while it sounds quite bizarre it all comes together seamlessly at the end.

It contains one of the most amazing and complex villains/heroes I can ever remember encountering and Gretel will stay with you long after you've closed Necessary Evil.

How this was plotted I will never know, but it was a brilliant achievement from beginning to end. If I could nominate it every year from now until a number of years into the future I would. It's that good.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.

Oh come on! Everyone knew this was going to make the list. How could it not? Was it worth the wait? Some think not and while it has it's flaws they are few and far between, and I thought it was something that I didn't mind waiting for. The rereads of the earlier books in the series only improved them for me.

I did a proper review here.

Hopefully is enough of us vote for this we can get Scott a Hugo and although there has been talk that we will see the 4th book in the series (The Thorn of Emberlain) in 2014 I can remember hearing similar things about The Republic of Thieves, so I'm not holding my breath there.

This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong.

The final book on the list is one of the first I read for the year. In 2012 I encountered a bizarre book called John Dies at the End. This Book is Full of Spiders is the sequel.

While it's a sequel, it contains the same characters and shares a setting with the original, both books are self contained.

Like its predecessor it is a huge amount of fun and while narrated by David and having plenty of John in it this is Amy's book and I love it for that. It's also misnamed. There are indeed space spiders from another dimension in it, but at the heart of it This Book is Full of Spiders is actually full of zombies and it's a zombie novel. If you don't believe me read it and you'll have more fun with zombies than you ever believed possible.

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