Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 End of the Year Book Survey: Part I

These questions (and pretty graphics) come from Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner's Annual End of Year Book Survey. I LOVE surveys. Reading them, filling them out myself, doesn't matter. I love them.

I also have a terrible attention span and I hate long things, so I've divided this survey up into multiple posts.

Oh, and if you haven't already noticed, I agonize over the idea of picking just one of anything. So I didn't even try.

I only included books I read for the first time in 2013.  



1. Best Book You Read In 2013?

I read a lot of great books this year (and a few just barely missed this list), but these stand out as being especially amazing.


I've already read the first four books in the Riyria Revelations by Micheal J. Sullivan TWICE this year alone (and I know I'll be re-reading them many more times). Characters, plot, this series has it all. Highly recommended to fantasy fans. This is NOT your typical fantasy. 





The Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Grey ultimately gave me everything I want out of historical fiction. I learned SO many things about the time period, and by the time I finished I felt like I had made a bosom friend. Of course, I sobbed my eyes out by the end.

 


The Decoy Princess was recommended by Scarlett when I asked for court fantasy recommendations and I could just kiss her for introducing me to such a fantastic book! I can't decide if I'm more in love with the unique world building, the intrepid main character, or the combative, tension-filled relationships.




Rarely do sequels live up to the awesomeness of first books, but Crown of Midnight actually surpasses its predecessor! Everything is MORE. The romance is deeper and filled with moments that made my heart SOAR and then feel like it was being ripped to shreds. The intrigue was more intriguey. The stakes were higher. The introduction of that witch alone made it amazing. Sarah J. Maas must be a kindred spirit because this series feels like it was plucked out of my bestest book dreams.



2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

As much as this year was filled with win, it was also filled with utterly crushing disappointment. Sequels to three of my top favorite books of 2012 came out this year as well as a sophomore effort from an author who wrote a book that still makes me want to clutch it to my chest with love. My hope bar was set pretty high.

The Runaway King wasn't a bad book at all. I actually enjoyed it a whole lot. So why is it here? Mostly because I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. Was it the name thing? Or maybe that I read Meghan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series in between, and while Sage reminds me of Gen, Gen is by far my favorite of the two. Maybe it's that my expectations were leaning in a slightly different direction? Or maybe it's because Sage felt different and this follow up just didn't have the same level of intrigue that kept me on the edge of my seat in The False Prince.



Dark Triumph was another sequel that didn't meet my expectations, but wasn't a terrible book overall. I liked it enough, and there were even some things I loved about it. That said, it was no Grave Mercy and paled in comparison in character development, romance, historical backdrop, and even plotting.Whereas everything in Crown of Midnight was MORE, everything in Dark Triumph seemed LESS than the book before it.





I wanted to love The Pirate's Wish so much, but I ended up almost hating it. I rated it pretty darn high (4.5, with a nudge up due to the first book and first half of this book), but the more the book settled with me the more a few scenes stood out in my memory and turned me off to the whole book. I don't know what was going on in the second half, but it feels like everything sort of unraveled and I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth.





I seem to be in the minority on this one, but the rampant stereotypes, illogical premise, and dreamscape narrative style totally turned me off. I'm 50/50 with Erin Bow, but hopefully her next book will be another win for me.





 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?  

Yeah, yeah, to anyone who has read Eva Ibbotson before, it's a Known Thing that she's amazing. Well, I was a stubborn holdout and I hadn't read Evan Ibbotson before this book. I actually avoided her because I got a "boring" vibe off her books for some reason.

Obviously, I was so very, very wrong. Sure the story overall was delightful, but Eva Ibbotson truly shines in the little details, and it is in this that she has captured me as a lifelong fan. I read this with Ruby and much of our conversations consisted of, "And that scene with the thing! Wasn't that marvelous?!" This book is a treasure (and great for fans of Downton Abbey!).


 4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I was kind of a book recommending slacker this year. I recommended, of course, but mostly in my reviews. I wasn't a raving fangirl of recommendations this year (like I have been in previous years), even though I read a number that deserve their own cheer leading squads.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

See above. I blew through this series in the beginning of the year, only to close out the end of the year in the middle of a series-long re-read. I've book-pushered it on two people already and I'm already contemplating buying back up "reading and lending" copies.
I've only read the first book in this duology, but I loved it SO much that I'm now "saving" the sequel for a time when I need a book I know I'll love. I've heard the sequel is as good and possibly even better, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I agree.


HOLY COW. I'm not sure how else to describe Angelfall without gifs of jaws dropping and people screaming. In terror. And at the sheer awesomeness Susan Ee has created. And also, swoon. Lots of swoon. With banter. This book was pretty much everything I wanted and never realized I wanted all rolled up into one horrifyingly gory package of swoony win.

Only problem is, now I'm afraid to read the sequel. I even pre-ordered it (which I almost never do), and yet it still sits on my shelf, unread and promising wonders I'm still too chicken to discover (but can you blame me? See above Most Disappointing Reads).


The Rebel Angels series is confusing and surprising and while I'm still not entirely sold that I like this series, I know I'm utterly transfixed by it and I may even love it. It's almost like an obsession.

Like an obsession, I need the next book NOW. I need to find out what will happen next. I need to spend more time with these characters and in their strange, scarily beautiful world. The first and second books were pretty consistent, and so I'm fully expecting the third book to be on par.
 Inhuman was a total surprise. It felt fun, daring, exciting, scary, and new. The action was always super high and while the main character sometimes made some dumb calls, she definitely learned her lesson by the end.

With the cliffhanger ending, I'm dying to find out what happens next, but I don't need a cliffhanger to make me want to read the sequel. Kat Falls guaranteed that with her ability to create novel horrors, memorable characters (even secondary characters!), and relationships I'm totally invested in.

 A Natural History of Dragons was a total surprise for me! I had hoped I'd like it (Pride and Prejudicey lady-fic meets dragon scholar adventures? YES PLEASE!), but I had no idea I'd love it this much. Marie Brennan spun a story that could have been so by the numbers but was instead utterly unique, filled with tender moments, sensitive characterizations, and just enough action and intrigue.

I thought this was a standalone, but boy was I happy to find out there will be a sequel coming out in 2014!


I'm not convinced I'm going to love the sequels (and I'm not sure why), but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I do because These Broken Stars was fabulous. While the Big Reveal reminded me of another book (and so seemed kinda obvious earlier on), there was plenty of banter, survival adventure, character growth, and OH MY GOSH TWIST and SURPRISE ENDING to keep my attention. These are authors who aren't afraid to GO THERE, and I like it.



 Poison Dance is a prequel novella, but if it's any indication of what to expect out of the main series, then count me IN! Fantastic world building, character depth and growth, twisty plot arcs—there was more win in this little novella than most full length novels.





 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Flailing and hand-flapping with love:


Totally intrigued and want to read more from them:


7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Ha! I don't DO out of my comfort zone! And I'm perfectly fine with that.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?


 9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I've been waiting, hoping, and praying these novellas would be release in paper form! And now they are! I pre-ordered a copy as soon as the news broke. And then I realized months later that they were releasing this in hardback AND the original paperback. So I pre-ordered a copy in hardcover. The last time I accidentally ordered a book twice due to overwhelming GIVE ME NOW was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so, yeah.





I'm doing a buddy read with Gina and we're just about to start Heir of Novron. I can't wait!
 I'll probably re-read this in anticipation of the third book and the novellas (which I'll be re-reading). But let's be real, I don't need sequels and prequels to make me reread these books.








I'll also re-read this one before reading the sequel so I don't miss any hints or connections. But, like Sarah J. Maas's books, I don't really need an excuse to re-read this book. 
 10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?



 What can I say? I love pretty dresses, handsome men, and covers that are true to their stories. And dragons (but that one's just cool!)

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

SO MANY! Hadrian, Royce, Esrahaddon, Arista, Modina, I could go on. There's an extensive multi-page character map in the back of each book and I could practically copy and paste that here. Michael J. Sullivan has created some of my absolute favorite characters. Major and minor, love them and hate them, they're all memorable.
CHAOL! Someone get me my pom poms because I adore this character! He's not just swoony in a stoic soldier way, but he's a character with depth and nuance and growth and seeing him with Celaena is as intriguing as it is romantic.

And then, of course there's Celaena, who deserves pom poms all her own. I love that she is equal parts girly AND kick butt. She's getting ALL my sleepover party invites (and I hope she brings Fleetfoot).

But I can't forget all the other characters, too. Because, again, major and minor, Sarah J. Maas excels at characters. 


I love the MC, and I love her romantic interest, but the guy that intrigues me the most is her nemesis (and to say they have sizzle is a massive understatement!) He's a complex guy who isn't exactly a villain but also isn't one of the good guys. He also has secrets, and I need to know what he's hiding.
Every single character in this book, from the main characters to the supporting characters to a dog with a few choice scenes to characters merely mentioned in passing, every single character is flawless. I can't gasp and rave highly enough.
There are three characters that feel like they've been seared into my brain: the villain, the queens (ok, they're more than one), and the little boy. If you've read the book, then you know. If you haven't read it yet, then brace yourself for fear, intrigue, horror, and tissues because, wow.
Lady Trent and her doting husband just feel so right. His love for her is the stuff awwws were made for. Her academic fervor makes my heart sing. I adore them both, which only makes the ending, well, I can't spoil the ending! But, yeah, my heart!
I feel like I've been through so much with Selene! We've fought together, raged against the emperor, swooned over her brother (!), masterminded stratagems and political alliances, grew a kingdom, forged friendships, and raised children. Seeing her story come to an end was bittersweet but handled so beautifully.







Juana the Mad! How can she NOT be memorable? Even Jean Plaidy's awful characterization was memorable, but it is C. W. Gortner's portrayal that I love. His Juana was total BFF material as a strong, vividly drawn, ambitious woman. I especially loved how the author wrote her in a way that I was never totally sure if she truly was truly mad from the get go, if she went mad as a result of her circumstances, or if she was completely sane. Well done!





Katharine is not one of the most memorable characters. Actually, I tend to forget her and this book, which is a travesty because I LOVE them. As soon as I'm reminded of the book again, all my fangirling love comes flooding back in. Katharine is sleepover party material for sure. Not only that, but her personality makes her stand out from all the same cookie-cutter main characters as someone wholly unique. 
People seem to love or hate Marie Antoinette, and I LOVE her. Especially Juliet Grey's presentation, which is totally sympathetic without being Mary-Sue-ish. Her Marie Antoinette was always someone I could sympathize with, have fun with, and admire.







 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?


Every word was perfection. It's like Downton Abbey mixed with legit historical fiction wrapped up in a fairy tale.








13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 


There is nothing quite like discovering a book that gives you everything you want out of reading. I read so I can find these Special Shelf books.

IMPACT is a great word to describe the images Susan Ee conjured up with this book. I don't even know how to describe the visceral blergh of those ending scenes and how emotionally ripping it was to find out what happened to Penryn's loved ones.



I finished up two trilogies about historical woman this year, and both conclusions felt so lovingly drawn and I'm so thankful to the authors. Both left me sobbing and both made me feel like I was saying goodbye to best friends. 

 

Stay tuned for part II tomorrow!

Feel free to add links to your own survey responses in the comments!

18 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about reading the sequel of books (re: Angelfall)! Sometimes, the sequel turn out to be disappointing and kind of ruin the series. Bleh. But now I'm very curious about the Marie Antoinette trilogy because I'm fascinated by her history. Have you seen the movie portrayal by Kirsten Dunst? Well, I love Dunst as well, and I really liked the movie and the 'darker', less exuberant side shown in the movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! You hit the nail on the head that a bad sequel can ruin a series.

      I have seen the MA movie with Kirsten Dunst! I like it a lot, even with it's drawbacks. I think if you liked the movie you should definitely check out the book series. It's fantastic.

      Delete
  2. Lovely post Small! I love how always feature different books than most other bloggers. And I agree with you on Runaway King and Dark Triumph. They were good but not quite as good as their predecessors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad you said that about picking different books. I've been thinking of branching out a little more and reviewing some less popular and older books.

      Delete
  3. I love yer post Small! And I'm so happy you loved A Countess Bellow Stairs so much, now do yourself a favor and don't read The Reluctant Heiress (it sounds a lot like ACB but it's not, so not).

    I'm very intrigued by those The Riyria Revelations books but they are SO LONG!! :( I don't read long these days, I get distracted so easily, lol.

    anyway, may 2014 bring you many awesome books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh no, DON'T read The Reluctant Heiress?! Ok, I will try to remember and heed your warning :)

      I know, the Riyria Revelations books ARE long. But I'm a slower reader and I've read through them now twice in one year. So, of course I think they're totally worth it :) I think you'd like them! At the very least you can give the first book in the first omnibus a try. It's more of a standalone and I think you'd find it good fun.

      Delete
  4. I really loved Crown of Midnight, but I loved Dark Triumph too! And, I have lots of trouble with the "one answer" thing too.... Here's my survey answers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Ha! I don't DO out of my comfort zone! And I'm perfectly fine with that."

    LOL. This is great.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'll be interested to see what you make of the sequel to The Decoy Princess. I read both books many years ago (before I started blogging!) and I enjoyed the first one, but the second one – I will word this vaguely so as not to spoil – contained a character revelation that I didn't see coming and was not a fan of. Not sure what I'd make of it if I read it again now, but I'd love to hear your thoughts when you get around to reading it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ooooh ok, I'm now super curious and slightly scared! I hope I do like the character revelation because I HATE it when authors do character reveals that I disagree with. Ruins everything for me.

      Delete
  7. I had a survey go up today, too! I miss you...I need to visit more often in 2014! I'm gonna try out Dawn Cook! CROWN OF MIDNIGHT is all over my list, too, lol! I'll finally read Jennifer Nielsen as the final book comes out! Aww, sorry you didn't like DARK TRIUMPH as much as GRAVE MERCY! I'm really excited for the finale...! I almost bought nook's Cassandra Rose Clarke deal of the day...glad I didn't! I need to finish SORROW'S KNOT, eep! You have a lot of books that I haven't read up! Gotta catch up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! I totally miss you too! I've been reading your blog, but I don't think I've been commenting much :(

      Delete
  8. Since I love fantasy, I think I need to read Dawn Cook and Michael J. Sullivan's novels if you loved them so much, Small. The only books that I read from your list were These Broken Stars and Angelfall, both of which I loved. Lol, I'm a bit scared to read the sequel of Angelfall too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes yes yes! You will love them!!!

      From all accounts I've heard, it seems like the sequel to Angelfall is great and we have nothing to worry about (though I'm still worrying!)

      Delete
  9. A Natural History of Dragons sounds awesome! Anything Pride and Prejudice and anything dragon-y sounds right up my alley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh yes, I think you would like it very much.

      Delete

It's all about friendly conversation here at Small Review :) I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Be sure to check back again because I do make every effort to reply to your comments here.

Because I am absolutely terrible about following through with blog awards, I can't in good conscience accept any more. Thank you very much for thinking of me though!

Spam WILL be deleted. Attacks on myself or other comments WILL be deleted.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...