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2013 Year Of Reading Round-Up

Happy new year! This year I read 76 books, more than I have ever read in a year since I started book blogging. It was by a good amount, too, with 26 books last year and 16 up from the previous ‘best’ year. Certainly not studying helped as I had a lot more time, but I think there is something to be said for reading what you want and a great deal to be said for reading more than one book at a time. Last year I decided that reviewing every book I read was a good idea for me, and I stand by that, but as it happened I couldn’t accomplish it. Of the 76 books I read, 9 were non-fiction. I’m happy with that statistic even if it was aided by ARCs and even if I know I should and want to work harder in that vein.

As I did last year I’m including a ‘best of the best’ list in which I have tried to be as objective as possible. The decisions this year were incredibly difficult, yet still I had every intention of keeping to five as I have previously. Once I was at the fifth choice, however, choosing which of the last two candidates to include proved impossible as both were exceptional and very different, so I’ve bucked the trend and gone for six. Lower down the page, after the rest of the books (that are also listed objectively) you’ll find my personal favourites. Both selections are limited to one book per author.

As always, books that have been reviewed have a line underneath them and the title links to the review. The personal favourites is just a paragraph of book covers, because those covers (plus review links) are of course in the objective lists too. Because I realise last year’s post was huge, and some of you may be more interested in which books I personally preferred (rather than my objective list) you can click here to zoom down to my personal favourites. There is of course some overlap between the lists.

The Best Of The Best (Objective list)

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  • Andrew Blackman: On The Holloway Road – A man discontent with his life embarks on a journey with a notorious local, aiming to find true freedom in a country full of restrictions. Excellent.
  • Becky Aikman: Saturday Night Widows – Dumped from the widow support group she’d joined and wanting to create one based on trying to live again, Aikman created an original group and in this book she details their year of meetings. Brilliant – well written, insightful, and the woman are great to read about in themselves.
  • Kate Forsyth: Bitter Greens – A fictional story of the woman who wrote the popular version of Rapunzel, and how she discovered the tale (it includes a retelling of its own). My blurb here ended with me saying it would make my ‘best of’ list, and, as you can see, it has.
  • Lisa See: Shanghai Girls – Pearl and her sister, May, are forced to leave their lives as models behind and marry Americans when their father gets into trouble; with Japan invading China and Communism on the way, that may prove to have been for the best. Stunning, absolutely stunning.
  • Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt (ed.): Rags & Bones – An anthology of retellings in short story form, featuring the likes of Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr herself, Kami Garcia, and Saladin Ahmed. A stunning and at times exceptional collection that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes fantasy, paranormal, and horror.
  • Taylor Stevens: The Doll – Whisked away under the pretence of an accident, Munroe finds herself at the mercy of criminals who want her to deliver a ‘package’ in return for the life of her loved ones. Excellent book.

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My Personal Favourites

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This year was about reading as much as I could and trying to balance review copies and my own books. I managed to do both, though the latter was down to, in most cases, the need to comfort read. I didn’t sign up for any challenges, but I might as well have found a romance challenge as I read a lot in that genre. During the difficult times that plagued the year the idea of reading something predictable so that I could just relax was too appealing to ignore.

This year was also about reading books I should have read a long time ago. I did read a couple of older classics, but the book in my mind here is Gone With The Wind. Since August was consumed by Mitchell’s book I didn’t expect to have finished at the number of books I have. I must admit a minor defeat by Vanity Fair. I haven’t given up on it but I’ve now been reading it for two years… Right now if I could ask any author anything I’d be asking Thackeray not to refer to every character by their prefix and surname. I know other classical fiction writers do it as well but in their cases there are less characters to sort through in order to discover which is being refered to.

Quotation Report

If the majority are to be believed, Lord Vere of His At Night can’t distinguish between a secret and a hedgehog. It will take the loss of his job for you to know the truth. And whilst Henry VIII stopped approving of monasteries and convents, he wasn’t about to let those who had joined said institutions marry, as Joanna of The Chalice finds out, on her wedding day, no less.

If you want to be typically Georgian, or rather just typically Desperate Duchesses, take up cow-pat discus. It’s as messy and smelly as it sounds. And do know that when it comes to the subject of his mother’s whereabouts (she went up in a cloud of smoke that whisked her back in time) the response from Issac, from Like Chaff In The Wind, is likely to be “can I have some ice-cream?”.

If the rest of the family are downstairs and you want to complete your collection of animals-forcibly-drawn, you can always take a leaf from the book of Smudge from The Uninvited Guests, and lead the pony up the stairs to your room. Any excrement is unimportant, it’s the drawing that matters.

If you are having an argument with Rhett Butler, the sort in which you should be slamming doors, rest assured he will do it for you.

Don’t be like Nick from The River Of No Return – if you choose to return to the past having lived in the future (our present), modern phrases just do not work, and as much as the person you fancy (ah, they may not understand that either) seems modern, they really aren’t. Even if their actions indicate otherwise.

If one has an issue creating names, they can always do as Neil Gaiman has with his contribution to Rags & Bones and use the backdrop as a good excuse. Indeed it may just create a similar sort of humour. And while we’re at it, if you’re in a medieval-ish setting, it’s likely the girl has blushed because she’s suggested the prince will wake the princess with a kiss – not with the bucket of water the dwarf considered appropriate. In the 1980s, Michael Palin shared a train with two other people apparently also known as Michael Palin. But it was the camel and its owner, again both called Michael, that may have surprised him the most when he went Around The World In 80 Days.

In Improper Arrangements, Lady Alice reminds us of changing fashions and attitudes when she says that without crinolines and petticoats she will look ridiculous. And whilst generally a girl might feel upset that another girl is wondering what the man sees in her (the first girl), the reaction of Eleanor from Eleanor & Park is one of agreement. It’s funnier than this blogger makes it sound.

In the next few days I’ll be posting my goals for 2014 and, after that, my second film round up.

What were your favourite books of 2013?



January 1, 2014, 2:46 am

You are so good to have an objective list! I admit that I have a hard time being anything but completely subjective in my reading. Maybe that’s why I have such a tough time with review books. Eleanor & Park was a great one huh? And I think I have Shanghai Girls on my shelf somewhere.

Happy New Year Charlie! I look forward to seeing your 2014 goals.


January 1, 2014, 5:23 am

I bought both of Kate Forsyth’s new adult reads and haven’t read either of them… They are both so pretty they will probably reside on my shelves anyway, but it would be nice to read them!


January 1, 2014, 11:04 am

Looks like you’ve had a great reading year! I haven’t been able to whittle my list (much longer than 2012) down to my top favourites yet. Hopefully won’t be long so look out for it. Happy New Year Charlie. I pray 2014 is a good year for you.


January 1, 2014, 1:07 pm

Happy New Year, Charlie. You’ve read so many great books this year! I’m pleased to see Gone With the Wind and Shanghai Girls on your list of favourites. And I must try to read Bitter Greens soon – I loved The Wild Girl.


January 2, 2014, 1:41 am

Happy New Year to You! You read such a great variety of books last year – I’m impressed. Thanks for reminding us about Bitter Greens. I remember wanting to read it after your original post and now I will track down a copy.


January 2, 2014, 4:07 pm

Love the objective list and then the gushy favorites :-)

I want to read Bitter Greens! It sounds lovely.

Alex (Sleepless Reader)

January 2, 2014, 8:28 pm

The year I’ve read Gone With the Wind it was a clear winner. It’s still in the top 10 of all time.

Vanity Fair was a favorite two years ago, but I can imagine how it could get hard-going if you lose pace..


January 3, 2014, 8:03 am

Wonderful lists, Charlie! I love the fact that you made a ‘Best books’ objective list and a personal favourites list. Love the fact that ‘On the Holloway Road’, ‘Eleanor and Park’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ are there on your lists. Loved them all.

Happy New Year! Hope you have a wonderful year filled with wonderful books and many beautiful reading moments! Looking forward to following your reading adventures this year.

vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

January 3, 2014, 11:44 am

I definitely fall into the non-scientific and subjective side of book judging! You’ve reminded me that I wanted to read Bitter Greens after hearing Kate F talk in Sydney this year. And also definitely Eleanor and Park. A tempting list!


January 5, 2014, 5:40 pm

76 books is amazing! 80 books this year then , yeah ;) hehe.

Definitely agree that reading what you want and not what you have to read makes a big difference in how many books you get through.

I thoroughly enjoyed Magda and Eleanor and Park as well, so glad I read the former based on you enjoying it.

Interesting that you gave Lean In a 3.5, I’ve got that in my to-read pile, so I shall visit your review once I’ve got to it.

Looking forward to seeing what you read in 2014!

Literary Feline

January 6, 2014, 9:27 pm

I enjoyed reading through your lists, Charlie, and seeing the break up by rating. I did that the year before last, but didn’t have the energy to do it again for 2013. Maybe this year. . .

Like others have committed, I find it impossible to be objective in my reviewing, but, then, that’s also because I put so much of myself in what I read that I can’t really separate the two. Not entirely, anyway.

Bitter Greens does sound good. And Saving CeeCee Honeycutt made my list of favorites too. :-)

I hope you have a Happy New Year, Charlie!


January 9, 2014, 11:23 am

Trish: I like to think my list is objective, though I know that saying it’s absolute is difficult. I find I end up reading in two ways, both objectively and subjectively. I think if you only read objectively you’d miss too much and lose out on the emotional factors of the story. I heartedly recommend Shanghai Girls, even if that sounds obvious. Happy new year!

Kailana: You’re in for a treat! I’d definitely recommend making time for them soon :) I’m actually kind of envious of your being on that side – knowing how good they are it’s hard not to miss that experience of reading them for the first time!

Jessica: It’s so difficult when there are so many to choose from, isn’t it? My first ‘personal’ list was about double the length until I put my foot down. Thank you, Jessica :)

Helen: If you’ve read The Wild Girl yes, you must read Bitter Greens!

Anbolyn: I think you’d like Bitter Greens. It is a difficult read at times but there really is something for everyone.

Aarti: I like objectivity but it would be dull without some personality ;) Oh do, I think you’d like it a lot!

Alex: I enjoyed GWTW very much, and I do wonder if I was ‘harsh’ not to give it top marks sometimes. Yes, that’s it exactly. I think if I’d been able to read most of it at once or thereabouts I might have finished it by now. But absence unfortunately made me forgetful rather than fonder.

Vishy: There are so many books I like that are ‘technically’ great books, the same as anyone, and it doesn’t feel right not to celebrate them, too. Happy new year, Vishy! You, too, here’s to many good books!

Vicki: That’s something that’s so great about the community as a whole, we can each read exactly as we want to and therefore add so much to the conversation. Those two are very good reads.

Alice: 80 would be awesome. I was glad to read you’d enjoyed Madga, and of course E&P but when it’s a recommendation… Lean In is a difficult one. It’s hard not to technically agree with reviews on either end of the scale but I do believe there was more of a particular audience i mind, subconsciously, than Sandberg perhaps realised.

Literary Feline: Thanks. I started drafting it in October, it took several hours in total, so I know what you mean about energy. Even when you want and strive to be objective it’s very difficult. From my own experience you end up doubting and editing a lot more, too, though that said I know I’m not always objective and there are occasions when I don’t want to be or can’t be. I guess it’s a work in progress that may or may not be ‘finished’. I saw CeeCee on your list, a great book! It was one of the last few I pondered over, I’m thinking of making six my usual number. Happy new year!



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