2013 Favourites: Books

So it’s that time of year again. 2013 was full of surprises and upsets, but we survived. And more importantly, we read. And discovered. And cried. And felt. And pretty much fell in love with stories over and over again. I read a ton of books and watched a number of tv shows this year, and while most of them were actually not 2013 releases (sorry, sorry), I decided to make a list of my top 2013 favourites.
In this segment: BOOKS


The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
Historical Fiction – Young Adult
Believe me, I regret not reading this sooner. The Book Thief stole my heart; it made me feel things I never thought I was capable of feeling with mere words, but this story teaches you that words are just as powerful as hope, just as important as life. (Click here for my review.)

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Historical Fiction – Classics
Although it took a chunk of my time reading this, I’d reread The Count of Monte Cristo in a heartbeat. I fell in love with Dumas’ world and characters — how complex and truthful the novel is can’t really be described unless you experience it first hand. To put it simply, I can’t get this story out of my mind, even still. (Click here for my review.)

 Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Historical Fiction – Adult
I read this baby for school, and I was taken aback. Fall On Your Knees follows the Piper family through 5 generations, dealing with extremely controversial issues that are often suppressed – incest, rape, and domestic abuse, to name a few – and explicitly presents them to the reader. MacDonald is not afraid to just write; this story is graphic and uncensored, yet equally compelling as a novel.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Contemporary Romance – Young Adult
This is why I occasionally like following trends. I heard so many good things about Eleanor & Park – most of them being painfully beautiful – and oh yes, it was. Rowell is one to watch; she excels in her ability to express young, angst-y love, with genuine characters that are to-die for. Definitely looking forward to reading more of her books in the new year. (Click here for my review.)

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Mystery Thriller – Adult
Another Flynn book that took me by surprise. Gone Girl was cruel, merciless, brilliantly well done, and I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining story. (Click here for my review.)


Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3), by Cassandra Clare
Fantasy – Young Adult
I don’t even have the words William Herondale. (Click here for my review.)

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3), by George R.R. Martin
High Fantasy – Adult
Out of all the books in this series that I’ve read so far, I’d have to say A Storm of Swords was the biggest game changer. Not that there aren’t any huge game changers in the previous two books, but I actually screamed out loud reading this one.

Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1), by Chuck Wendig
Urban Fantasy – Adult
I picked this one up for the gorgeous cover, but it was the contents that blew me away. Wendig’s writing is sharp, witty, and twisted in so many ways — I fell in love with Miriam Black and her baggage from the very first page. (Click here for my review.)

Outlander (Outlander #1), by Diana Gabaldon
Historical Fiction / Fantasy – Adult
Outlander is rich in setting, characters, plot, everything — probably the most fun and compelling stories I’ve read this year. This is why I love historical fiction; and Scots in kilts?! Yes. (Click here for my review.)

Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2), by Tahereh Mafi
Dystopian – Young Adult
Oh, I was unraveled, alright. I hoped for more Warner in this installment, and what I got was something beyond anything I’d ever expected. Mafi kills you – but not enough to stop reading looking at you, Chapter 62. (Click here for my review.)

Well, that was my list! What are your favourite books of 2013? Leave a comment or link your post below!
Happy New Years, bookaholics.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Publisher: Crown

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Genre: Adult – Thriller

Type: Stand-Alone

Purchase: Amazon | Chapters | B & N | Book Depository

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Present are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behaviour. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Why Am I here:
When Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, goes missing on their fifth anniversary, the entire town of North Carthage is devastated. Except for Nick. He’s shocked, yes, and he wants nothing more than just to see his wife again, but he’s oddly calm. Composed. Everything a husband shouldn’t be – especially when the cops are breathing down his neck. Nick swears he isn’t the culprit, but who is? And where has Amy gone?

Plot and Pacing: He Said, She Said
Flynn structures Gone Girl with alternating ‘He Said, She Said’ perspectives. It’s typical amongst crime thrillers, but what Flynn accomplishes between Nick and Amy Dunne is so much more. The reader gets an insight of their relationship — the good, the bad, and everything in-between – it leaves us to judge for ourselves. Chapter after chapter, the impression of Nick and Amy changes; you think you know them, but no, oh no, you really don’t. No one does. It’s outrageously, relentlessly, terribly GOOD — and that’s what makes it so damn addictive. Flynn easily commands what the reader knows and feels, it’s ruthless, actually. So ruthless she keeps you coming back for more.

Character Thoughts: It’s Complicated
Nick Dunne. Amy Dunne. When you combine two, incredibly complicated people, you just get an even bigger complication. Their relationship, their marriage – it’s complicated. Which is why it makes for such a bloody entertaining story. Nick is your small town golden boy — the guy with the looks, the smile, and the writer for a semi-popular New York magazine company. Amy, also a writer, is smart, beautiful, wealthy (hello super-successful parents!), and has the right to say she earned a degree in psychology.

Like most couples, Nick and Amy have their differences as well as similarities. To be honest, it doesn’t really sound that exciting or special; but for some reason, it works. Flynn presents these characters in such an outrageous circumstance that it works. You want to know more of Nick, more of Amy, you want to dissect their complicated relationship to understand. It’s weird, I know. Flynn makes you feel like a cop trying to get to the bottom of everything, but she also makes you feel like a third-wheeler who has no intention of leaving.

Addictive Factor: Who Dunne-it? 
All the awards to Flynn. With Gone Girl being the third book of Flynn’s I’ve read, it’s clear that I’ve fallen for her mystery/thriller stories. Each book has that same psychological/thriller vibe to it, and yet I always find myself in shocked numbness at the end. Flynn’s writing is sharp and twisted, and she never, ever holds back (except for those clues, dammit). Definitely a must-read.


Bookaholic Verdict: i was a goner from the start

Quotaholic: “There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.

Jamie’s totally-relevant reading playlist:
“Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys

Heartsick, by Chelsea Cain

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: September 4, 2007

Genre: Adult – Mystery / Thriller

Type: Series (Gretchen Lowell #1)

Purchase: Amazon | Chapters | B & N | Book Depository

Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful and brutal serial killer. In the end, she was the one who caught him… and tortured him… and then let him go. Why did Gretchen spare Archie’s life and then turn herself in? This is the question that keeps him up all night – and the reason why he has visited Gretchen in prison every week since.
Meanwhile, another series of Portland murders has Archie working on a brand-new task force… and heading straight into the line of fire. The local news is covering the case 24/7, and it’s not long before Archie enters a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the killer — and his former captor. But this time, it’s up to Archie to save himself…

Why Am I here:
Beauty kills. Literally. Two years after detective Archie Sheridan was captured, tortured, and released by the Beauty Killer, Gretchen Lowell, he still hasn’t healed. A shadow of his former self, Archie’s addiction to pills is pretty much the only thing that gets him through the day – that, and his weekly visits with the now-imprisoned Gretchen Lowell. When a series of murders erupts the city, Archie must pull himself together in order to lead another hunt for a dangerous serial killer – and possibly free himself from Gretchen.

Plot and Placing: Read Me Like a Movie
Cain’s crisp, vivid writing-style had me devouring Heartsick as if it were a movie thriller; though it isn’t exactly the city of Portland that compels readers, it is Archie’s line of work – his life —  that evidently becomes a page-turner. Cain introduces Archie in the midst of his torture – she nails (no pun intended) his and Gretchen’s story lines from the very start; their lives are entwined, and as Archie later finds out, he is inescapable from Gretchen’s hold. Through flashbacks of Archie’s gruesome torture, readers see first-handedly just how compelling the killer beauty, Gretchen Lowell, really is – it is revolting to see how far Gretchen goes, how far Cain is willing to depict Archie’s helplessness, and yet, you can’t seem to take your eyes off the page.

Character Thoughts: Heart-Stealers
Archie is brilliantly written, and I am glad Cain decided not to go the “tormented” route; Archie is broken, he’s lost, he’s obsessed with a killer who went to great lengths to break him – yet, he remains strong for the sake of his team. Archie doesn’t sit well with self-pity, nor other’s pitying him, and despite how unhealthy his life-after-torture is, he is trying to move on. He’s trying to be a detective.

Gretchen Lowell scares me to death, and it’s terrifying how obsessed I became reading her scenes. Every scene she is in, she steals the show – there’s something about how she carries her sense of beauty with power, how it affects everyone around her. No one knows how to deal with Gretchen because she is manipulative; she’s intimidating, she’s unpredictable, and even though she is imprisoned – there is no sense of safety or security with her presence. All I ask is to see more of her in the future. I get the feeling Cain hasn’t told even half her story yet. (Did I mention she likes to doodle with an X-acto knife?)

Addictive Factor: To Die For
Like I said, Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell steals the show – every time. She and Archie have this dynamic relationship going on – between the tortured and the torturer – there’s just something about Gretchen that brings out a different side of Archie. Gretchen revels at the art of killing – she enjoys holding someone’s life in her hands. She plays god in her own right, and though it is sickening to see, there’s something about serial killers like Gretchen — killer stories like this — that attracts the human mind.


Bookaholic Verdict: literally heartsick - where’s the next book!

Quotaholic: “She was not pretty. That was not the word for it. Pretty implied something girlish. Gretchen Lowell was beautiful in a very grown-up way, in a sophisticated, confident way. It was more than beauty; it was the power of beauty. She radiated it.

Jamie’s totally-relevant reading playlist:
“Girl With One Eye” by Florence + The Machine
“The Monster” by Eminem feat. Rihanna

Waiting on Wednesday (47): S., by Doug Dorst

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly-anticipated upcoming releases.

Publisher: Mulholland Books 

Release Date: October 29, 2013 

Genre: Adult – Mystery

Type: Stand-Alone

Purchase: Amazon | Chapters | B & N | Book Depository

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.
The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.
The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secret subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumours that swirl around him.
The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears. 
S., conceived by filmmaker J.J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand, and it is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word. (Taken from Goodreads)

Hey everyone. It’s been quite a while but I thought I’d pop in to let you guys know that I really, really, really want to read this book. S. has been out for a day now (which kind of breaks the WoW rules, I know, I know – but it’s worth it) so be sure to check this out! I know I will.

What are you waiting on? Leave a comment below!

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Broadway

Release Date: May 4, 2010

Genre: Adult – Mystery

Type: Stand-Alone

Purchase: Book Depository (Free Worldwide Delivery)

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived – and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, when the Kill Club, a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes, locates Libby and pumps her for details – proof its members hope may free Ben – she hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started – on the run from a killer. 

As my first Gillian Flynn novel, I did not know what to expect. Dark Places was that type of novel that hooks you from the start – no matter how gruesome, or disturbing, or intensely dark the story is, the novel unapologetically takes you to Flynn’s crafted world – a dark place, so to speak – and leaves you there. To read. To understand. To experience Libby’s world, her life, her demons, her darkplace.

The one thing that separates good mystery novels from the great is how clever the author lays his or her clues out for readers. In this story, Flynn is brilliant in terms of writing and pacing – she leaves the slightest hints for the reader to indulge in the chapter, yet just enough to hunger for more. As frustrating as that sounds (especially readers like me who JUST WANT TO KNOW WHODUNNIT), it was like putting together a puzzle piece – in this case, a gruesome family murder – which was equally chilling and entertaining.

What was unique about Dark Places was that, despite Libby being the main voice in the story, there were multiple narrative shifts, which further contributed to how thrilling the story was. Not only were the perspectives easily identifiable and natural, the fact that Libby was such an unlikable character just made me appreciate Flynn’s writing that much more. Libby isn’t the type of character you’re supposed to like. She is messed up, twisted, and just as greedy as she is a thief. Still, Libby’s most admirable trait was just how selfish she was – she’d do anything to survive.

Though I haven’t read much mystery books to consider myself a devout mystery-lover, Gillian Flynn has found herself a new fan. Dark Places is a great book for readers alike – for those who love a good mystery, or even just a great, compelling read.


Bookaholic Verdict: unputdownable. (is that a word? oh well.)

Quotaholic: “I was not a loveable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unloveable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.

Jamie’s totally-relevant reading playlist:
“Civilian” by Wye Oak

Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff

Bad MonkeysPublisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: August 12, 2008

Genre: Adult – Science Fiction

Type: Stand-Alone

Purchase: Book Depository (Free Worldwide Delivery)

Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.
She says she’s a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil. She says she’s working with the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons – aka “Bad Monkeys.”
Her confession lands her in the jail’s psychiatric wing and earns her countless hours of poking, probing, and questioning. But is Jane crazy or lying?
Or is she playing a different game altogether?

I don’t know what to say. Bad Monkeys was one heck of an all-consuming, mind-blowing, confusing roller coaster ride, and I still do not know what to think of it. I don’t even know if I can even call it a roller coaster ride, because that’s like saying I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn’t.

Jane Charlotte was the kind of person I would deem “unpredictably entertaining”, simply because I didn’t know if any of the words coming out of her mouth were a truth, a lie, or her own little clever version of the ‘truth’. I had no idea. The reader has no idea. And that’s what’s so entertaining and special about this book – the reader is forced to go along with whatever she’s saying because this was Jane’s story to tell.

The reader is thrown into Jane’s crazy world – forced to see her broken childhood, her screwed-up adulthood, her struggle with good and bad. You get a glimpse of the events that led her to the psychiatric wing, and you are left to determine if any of it was real or not. Despite the mystery of Jane’s story, it was obvious how independent and headstrong Jane was. As much as she was an unreliable narrator, her confidence and arrogance compelled the reader to sympathize with her, believe her, even.

Ruff’s writing style was sharp and incredibly clever. Though the last remaining chapters began to fall short and left me dumbfounded, Ruff’s writing was fast-paced and captivating from the start. It was definitely a different reading experience for me as a reader, and I am glad to have taken the risk with Bad Monkeys.


Bookaholic Verdict: still processing my thoughts

Quotaholic: “But we all make the world, right? And if that’s true, I’m not going to settle for just one bad guy when I can get two. I saw my chance and went for it, and I’m not sorry. I’d do it again.

Jamie’s totally-relevant reading playlist:
“Off The Rails” by The Notwist

Waiting on Wednesday (35): The Waking Dark, by Robin Wasserman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly-anticipated upcoming releases.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Release Date: September 10, 2013

Genre: Young Adult – Horror / Mystery

Type: Stand-Alone

Pre-order: Book Depository (Free Worldwide Delivery)

They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand… except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn’t even know why she killed – or whether she’ll do it again.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander’s, Kansas – something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its decent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who’s not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town – and in themselves. (Taken from Goodreads)

Creepy cover. Nightmare-inducing synopsis. Um. BRB – I just crapped my pants. (In all serious-ness and awesome-ness, I’ve been a fan of Wasserman ever since reading The Book of Blood and Shadow – so, expectations = up in the clouds.)

What are you waiting on? Leave a comment below!