Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My favorite books read in 2013, and my yearly books read goal

Merry Christmas!

Today, I'm going to be sharing with you all my favorite books that I read this year. These are books that I gave a 5 star review on Goodreads that I read in 2013, which I don't give out a lot of. I give out a lot of four star reviews, admittedly, but the 5 star review I save for the books that will stay with me, that I'll recommend to everyone I know. They're the books I shout about from the rooftops.
I wasn't blogging my reviews back when I read most of these, so there isn't a review to accompany those. But I'm still going to quickly tell you why I enjoyed them so much!

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle)

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Why I Loved It: Admittedly, this book is not going to be for everyone. I wasn't even sure it was going to be for me at first. There are a lot of characters, and it took me until about page 90 to keep who was who straight. Then the book got really good. Then I hated everyone in the entire book and wanted to set it on fire. Then I loved the book again, and wanted to hug it (I actually might have). 

This is not Harry Potter. There is no magic, and this book is not meant for children. But it is a great adult novel about a town of people that think they all know each other, and they really don't. That think everything is perfect, and it's not. Is there a real Pagford, and Rowling is just writing it down? Of course not, but that's what this book feels like. 
The book itself goes nowhere. It's not a book with much resolution. But it is wonderful.

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Reached by Ally Condie (Paperback and Kindle)
After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

Why I Loved It: This was my favorite end to a trilogy. It made me laugh, it made me cry buckets (at around page 430), and it made me just love the series in general. It's rare I love every book of a trilogy, and only the second one got four stars. It was complete, I wasn't left with questions or thinking something was missing- it was just perfect, as far as dystopian trilogies go.

I think a lot of people didn't like that this book centered a lot on Xander and his medic experiences. But to me, these novels are about the characters experiences primarily, and the romance secondarily, especially if there's a love triangle. I really give no shits about the romance potential between Cassia and Ky, or Cassia and Xander. To me, it was obvious who she was going to end up with, and I just enjoyed the ride of it. I recommend reading the entire trilogy- they're great, and I don't think it will leave you feeling empty and disappointed like some of the other dystopian trilogies. 

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Hardcover and Kindle)
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Why I Loved It: My review on Goodreads (which was written prior to starting this blog) simply says this: "This book is going to stay with me for awhile". And it has. Again, it's a book with real-seeming characters. These real characters are in a horrible situation- they all have cancer. It's devastating and beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Do August and Hazel speak like real teenagers? No, they don't. They're ironic and jaded and have cancer. So they talk and live like they do. It's not a perfect book, but it was perfect to me. 

Also, as an aside, I am super excited for the movie, and LOVE the poster. Holy crap do I love it. I want to hug it.

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle)
Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

Why I Loved It: This book was beautiful, and devastating. I cried happy and sad tears while reading this book. Minka's story... I still think about it. The book takes place during the holocaust, and is one woman and one man's story. The way she brings the full story together is breathtaking. Jodi Picoult is a winner in my book, and this is my favorite of hers. Hands down. It is probably one of my favorite books that I've ever read. 

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Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr (Hardcover and Kindle)
(This book was provided by NetGalley for review.)
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Why I Loved It: You can read my full review here. I specifically timed this post because the book is now available to purchase! 

I didn't quite meet my goal of books to read this year- I wanted to read 50, and I ended shy of that. 

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Ashley has read 41 books toward her goal of 50 books.

I'm going to set next year's goal at 50 and try really hard to meet it! 

I'd love to see what books you guys have read and have loved this year (or just in general), so please feel free to share below!

FTC: All books were either purchased by me, borrowed from the library, or provided by NetGalley for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

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