Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 In Review

Last January, I decided I’d had it with readerly disappointment. "No more!" I declared. "This will be my Awesome Year of Awesome!"

To that end, I made three reading goals for myself:

  • Read awesome stuff.
  • Ignore books that fail to meet my standard of awesome.

While the second point gave me some trouble here and there, I stuck to #1 and #3 pretty durned closely. I read heaps and heaps of awesome books--enough that I feel confident in declaring 2013 as my BEST READING YEAR EVAR, capslock 100% necessary.

To put things in perspective: in a typical year, I might read two or three 5-star books1 and an assortment of 4.5ers; enough to round out a Top 5 or, occasionally, expand the list to to a Top 6 or Top 7.

In 2013, I read ten 5-star books and nine 4.5ers. I also had five 5-star rereads and two 4.5-star rereads.

Dear 2013: you were awesome.2

Let’s break this down into handy-dandy segments, now, so y’all can skip over anything that doesn’t interest you.

The Runners Up

I usually make a Long List in mid December and let that stand as a Runners Up list of sorts, but any Long List I compiled for 2013 would be very long indeed. Instead, I thought I'd highlight the amazing 4.5ers of 2013. In the order I read them, they are:

THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray – YA historical fantasy set in 1920s New York
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morganstern – historical fantasy centred on a magical circus
BEST SERVED COLD by Joe Abercrombie – secondary world revenge fantasy with mercenaries3
THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES by Scott Lynch – secondary world fantasy with thievery and the theatre and all that good stuff
THE FOLDING KNIFE by K.J. Parker – secondary world economics-focused fantasy
THE ANGEL by Tiffany Reisz – erotica/religious fiction with a glorious amount of BDSM
THE NOTHINGNESS OF BEN by Brad Boney – contemporary romance between a lawyer and a mechanic
THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater – YA contemporary fantasy with psychics, rich folks, and Welsh legends
THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater – sequel to the above

My Top 10 of 2013

Yes! Ten!

I’ve never had a Top 10. Not in all the years I’ve been making these lists.4. Hell, even when I've had a Top 7, it's been more a case of, "well, these were the only standouts I read this year, so I might as well list the lot."

In the order I read them, they are:

STEALING PARKER by Miranda Kenneally - review

Damn, y’all. Miranda Kenneally’s second novel is even better than her first (that would be CATCHING JORDAN, which made my Best of 2012). I became so involved in Parker’s world--in her relationship with her mom, and her romantic entanglements, and her body image--that I absolutely could not leave her alone until I’d devoured the full story. At one point, I cried so hard that I couldn't see my e-reader’s screen, but I scrubbed my eyes clear and kept on reading.

It was intense, is what I’m saying.

THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL by Galen Beckett - review

I preordered this series-ender as soon as it hit the Book Depository, received it days after it came out, and sat on it for nine months. 2012 was an odd reading year for me, characterized by an inability to love even those things that should’ve knocked my socks off. I didn’t want such a highly anticipated book to suffer in my estimation simply because I was in a weird mood, so I pushed it to the side for a while.

When I finally took the plunge last January, I decided I’d take a break from it every hundred pages so’s not to burn out on the story. This soon proved not only unnecessary but impossible. I routinely read upwards of a hundred pages per sitting, so desperate was I to see how everything would turn out. While I have some reservations about the way Beckett’s magic work, his characters are gold. They've become a true part of my life. I’m wicked eager to read the entire series back-to-back in the nearish future just so I can see everyone again.

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore - review


That pretty well sums it up. This remarkable YA fantasy hit me hard, y’all. It forced its way onto my (Highly Exclusive) List of Favouritest Books Ever and has continued to move me every time I’ve thought of it over the last ten months. And I can’t stop thinking about it; the hallmark of a true favourite.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 6.

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein

I cried through the last 280 pages of this 346-page Holocaust story.

I find it pretentious when people describe books as "important," but if I were ever to apply that label myself, I’d stick it on ROSE UNDER FIRE. It’s deeply affecting, and deeply unpleasant, and absolutely the best World War II novel I’ve ever read. It may prove triggering for some readers, dealing as it does with concentration camps, but if you think you can handle it, I want you to read it.

It’s more than a book; it’s an experience.

SAGA, volumes 1 and 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I know SAGA isn’t really perfect--nothing is, and I’ve read some valid male gazey criticisms of it besides--but I can’t quite believe it in my soul. I loved the first two volumes of this sprawling yet personal space opera more than I’ve loved any comic since STRANGERS IN PARADISE. Every character has depth, the stakes are high, and the art is wonderful. Give me more, please.

HEARTBEAT by Elizabeth Scott

I received an advance reading copy of HEARTBEAT, which hits shelves this February, during a multi-author signing at Book Expo America. Half the authors wrote fantasy, while the other half focused on contemporary fiction. "Do you read contemporary?" Ms Scott asked me when I made it to her station.

"I read everything," I said, because I do.

She smiled. "Well, I hope you enjoy this one."

I wish I could tell her I more than enjoyed it. I loved it deep in my soul.

HEARTBEAT is one of those intensely emotional stories that draws you in quick and hard. While it certainly has the potential to be an Issue Book, I read it as more of an emotional landscape; an examination not of the issue at hand (ie, whether it’s acceptable to keep a brain dead pregnant woman alive long enough to deliver her as-yet underdeveloped baby) but of how one girl copes with a dramatic change in her family life. I can’t wait until it’s widely available so I can push it on everyone who loves contemporary fiction.

THE MISTRESS by Tiffany Reisz

An important thing about me: if you can describe it as "crazy-ass," I want it.

Tiffany Reisz’s work most definitely qualifies as crazy-ass. THE MISTRESS, which wraps up a few storylines in her Original Sinners series and paves the way for a few more, reminded me of nothing so much as Jackie Collins, albeit with better prose and more (read: any) internal consistency. Reisz pulls out all the stops with this one, and the results blew my mind. I read it in a single day.

THE SNOW QUEEN by Joan D. Vinge - review

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a couple of weeks, you already know how I feel about THE SNOW QUEEN. Like BITTERBLUE, it forced itself onto my (Highly Exclusive) List of Favouritest Books Ever and demanded I give it 6 stars instead of the usual maximum of 5. I want to squeal with delight and/or weep whenever I think of it, and I think of it often.

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell - review

FANGIRL, too, is a recent read. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct you to my gushy, love-filled review. And I’ll remind you that I’m still not even close to over Levi.

Some Stats

I read 223 books in 2013.

157 had female or non-disclosed bylines5 while 102 had male bylines. There’s some overlap here as I read many books, particularly comics, with both female and male collaborators.

I read 46 keepers (books I added to or kept in my permanent collection), 52 sellers (books I passed along to someone else), 53 library books, 74 e-books, and 4 loaners (books I borrowed from private individuals). There’s some overlap between the library books and the e-books.

110 of last year’s reads had significant LGBT content in the form of queer protagonists, important queer secondary characters, and/or an overall queer worldview. 100 were written or drawn by non-Americans. 35 were chunksters (books with more than 450 pages). 51 were children’s or young adult fiction. 55 were comics. 21 were short fiction anthologies or collections, or fiction magazines. 1 was in translation.

I abandoned 20 books after the 100-page mark. I also abandoned many books before this point, but I don’t have accurate stats on them as I didn’t read far enough to include them in my reading tally.

I awarded a 4-star or higher rating to 114 books; which is to say, I loved just over half of what I read. This is astonishingly high for me. I like a lot, but I don't love very much.

According to my handy-dandy reading spreadsheet, as developed by Nicki of Fyrefly’s Book Blog, the books I read in 2013 cost me $289.89. Many of them were purchased in previous years or reread multiple times in 2013, so this isn’t an accurate reflection of what I spent on books last year.6

It’s probably easiest to list genres on a line-by-line basis, so let’s take that route.

Fantasy: 166

Science Fiction: 42

Horror: 35

General Fiction: 23

Historical Fiction: 22

Romance and Erotica: 15

Crime Fiction: 3

Nonfiction: 2

Poetry: 0

I clearly need to step up my game with crime fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in 2014. Which leads us into...

Reading Goals For 2014

Read awesome stuff.

Ignore anything that fails to meet my standard of awesome.


It’s that simple.

Really, though, I would like to read a bit more crime fiction in 2014. I love it ever so much, but it’s slipped away from my reading list in recent years. It’s past time I reintegrated it into my bookish life. I’d also like to read a fair bit more poetry; it’s just a matter of finding stuff that speaks to me. Y’all have any suggestions, particularly for female poets?

I plan to avoid male bylines in January. This month is all about the female (or genderqueer) authors and editors. To that end, I spent most of December clearing male-authored material off la TBR and suspending my male-authored library requests, leaving me free to wallow in stuff by women for the next few weeks. Depending on how well it works out, I might repeat the month a couple more times this year.

I want to make more of an effort to read work by people of colour in 2014, too. I didn’t track ethnicity in 2013, but I suspect my stats were dismal. A quick browse through my reading list only turned up 9 authors I could readily identify as POC. This year, I want to read a greater variety of perspectives.

Finally, I want to read from the library as often as possible. I keep very little of what I read, and with my new determination to abandon anything that doesn't grab me within the first fifty pages or so... well, I'm spending a lot of money on books I often don't even finish, let alone incorporate into my personal library. In the past, I've used the public libary to help me decide which books I ought to add to my permanent collection, and I'd like to get back into doing this. If the library owns a book I'm interested in but not desperate to read, I'll borrow it; if not, I'll buy it only if I can find it for a good price, either at a used bookstore or during a Kobo sale.

And that's that. On to 2014!

  1. New-to-me 5-star books, that is. I don’t count rereads on Best Of lists as they have an unfair advantage.

    I should also add that I don't subscribe to the Goodreads rating system. I loved anything I rate 4 stars or above. 5 stars means something truly special.

  2. At least so far as reading went. The rest of it... ugh. Crap year all around, with the occasional bright spot.
  3. And my June Book of 2013. Every June, I read at least one totally amazing novel. It seemed like 2013 was fated to break the streak until BEST SERVED COLD squeaked in under the wire.
  4. That’s not entirely true, since I counted the ElfQuest series as a single entry back in 2006, but let’s pretend. ElfQuest is basically one big story anyways, so it’s not like I could single out a single volume (except if you made me, I’d go with the conclusion to KINGS OF THE BROKEN WHEEL).
  5. I tally my gender stats according to whose name appears on the cover; so, authors, artists, and editors of anthologies or magazines. If an author chooses not to make their gender public, I count them as female. I don’t believe I read any books by genderqueer authors in 2013, though of course it’s possible that I missed some or the authors in question haven’t yet come out to the bookish community.
  6. I also need to rethink how I count costs for rereads. Comics are definitely my biggest bookish expense (thank you, Joss Whedon and co), and I’ll often reread a collected volume two or three times in a single year. As things currently stand, I count the full price when I log my first read-through, then axe it in half with every subsequent reading. I’m not sure this is an entirely effective way to measure how much my books cost.


  1. That's great that your year was so awesome! I abandoned so many books it was crazy... As a result I didn't dislike anything that I read. I just had a really quiet reading year.

    1. My willingness to abandon stuff meant I only finished five books I outright disliked. That's a record for me!

  2. I love those reading goals! Looking back on this year, I read a lot of books that were just okay, and that I wasn't excited about in the first place. And I'm not sure why! There are so many books that I am excited about, so why bother with anything that doesn't demand to be read right this second? I might have to adopt those goals myself.

    1. I fell into that trap around the middle of the year, especially as library requests I'd placed months ago started coming in. In many cases, these were second chance books; ie, I liked the author's first book just fine, but it didn't wow me. I wasn't terribly excited about these sequels, but I sort of felt like I had to read them. In a lot of cases, I ended up returning them unread, but I did muddle through some of them. A couple did surprise me in the best possible way.

  3. Yay for amazing reads! I did really well with my ratings too-- about 108/200 books were rated 4 stars or more. Very exciting!

    I love your no-male-bylines goal, btw! I've been flirting with the idea of doing something similar-- or at least of reading more recently-published SFF by female authors.

    Also! Re: book costs: personally I'd only count the cost of a book once, so if I read the same book two times in the same year, one instance would be $3 (for example) and the other would be $0. OR you could spread the cost out over each time you read it ($1.50/read, then). I think when I used Fyrefly's spreadsheet I just entered costs if I bought it the year I read it, though, so maybe I'm no help at all, haha!

    Also also! Do you use Chrome? There's an extension that'll check your library for a book when you're on Amazon or something. It works in multiple countries! (Link: I'm going to try using that so I'm not just buying books willy-nilly, even the $1.99 ones that sing me a siren song...sigh.

    -- Anastasia @ Here There Be Books

    1. I think I'm going to start spreading the cost over each reading, though I haven't all-the-way decided yet. That does seem like the best way to see how much I've actually spent on books, though.

      I use Firefox. I usually just keep an extra tab open so I can check my library's catalogue as soon as a book catches my attention. Then I get super-duper happy if they own it, and super-duper mopey if they don't. Their lack of Joan D. Vinge novels has been a particular sorrow.

  4. That is quite possibly the most detailed spreadsheet I have ever seen. Do you find it onerous to fill out? I'm tempted to give it a try, but I'm not sure I could stick with it.

    1. I don't track every category, so it goes pretty fast. I usually enter title, author, date finished, and number of pages (so, the main stats); then, over in the supplementary area, I've customed it to keep track of the author's gender, whether the author is non-American, whether the book is a comic, and whether it has significant LGBT content. I also track the genre, year published, where it came from, how much it cost, what I'd rate it, and whether or not the author was new to me. The toughest field is usually Year Published; I almost always have to look that up. Otherwise, most things are intuitive, so they're quick to enter in. :)

    2. Awesome! Thank you for letting me know. I don't have much in the way of Excel skills, but perhaps I can try tinkering a bit anyway :)


    I count my $$ for the first time I read a book, and then not for re-reads - if it's already on my shelf, it's free! The only exception is for something like The Book Thief, where I listened to it from the library the first time, then bought myself a paper copy, then re-read that. In that case, the money counts. But I can see the argument for tallying the cost of the re-reads, too, although personally I wouldn't add the cost of a re-read more than once, if the question is "How much did it cost to acquire what I read this year?"

    1. I'm pretty sure I'll start to spread the cost across multiple readings instead of essentially duplicating it, but I haven't entirely worked it out yet. It's a bit hard to focus on math stuff at the mo; I think I'm coming down with a minor flu. Blah.

  6. Because of this post, I have added a "keeper" row to my reading spreadsheet! Keeping a book is often the greatest indication that I loved it. If I add to my small stack of books that I don't want to let out of my sight, then it's a winner. Most of the time, I add finished books to our free book bin at work or I give them to a coworker or send them off to other readers. I'll let folks borrow books, always, but usually I'll say, "Hey, I really want this one back" or "pass it on." I'm excited to see what this number is at the end of the year! For library books, I'll count it as a "keeper" if I really want to buy it once I'm done.

    I'm so so so glad that you had an awesome year where you were able to wallow in the awesome. I'm ALL about abandoning books that don't do it for you. :D

    1. I used to keep anything I wanted to reread, but last January I decided not to hold onto anything unless I really and truly don't want to let it out of my sight. It makes for much lighter shelves, plus more space for the books that mean the most to me!

      I hope you end up with lots of quality keepers at the end of 2014.

  7. I have GOT to read more books by authors of color. Last year was a very bad year for that; I didn't pay the slightest bit of attention, and predictably ended up with lots and lots of white American authors. :(


    1. I'm aiming for 25% this year; low, but still heaps better than where I've been in the past. I've already put together a mighty exciting library list and combed through my shelves for stuff to reread.

      OMG SAGA. I looked into getting digital editions of the latest issues, but Image's website isn't the best. I wish they had a nice, easy app for purchasing digital content, like Dark Horse. Granted, it's been a while now since I looked through their catalogue. They might have improved things.

  8. You had an amazing reading year, Anita! Wallowing in awesomeness is an awesome goal. :-) A couple months ago I tracked down a copy of Snow Queen and am looking forward to reading it. A book that earns 6 out of 5 stars must be especially awesome. I am glad you enjoyed it so much! That bodes well for me. :-)

    Have a Happy New Year, Anita! And good luck with your goals for 2014.

    1. Memory, I am so sorry. I had Anita in my head when I was commenting on your post and my fingers typed her name without thinking. So so sorry!

    2. I want everyone to read THE SNOW QUEEN! It's such an amazing book.

    3. No worries; I figured it was something like that. :)