Best Books I Read in 2013

This was a busy year for me. I sold my house in Washington, moved to Idaho, then moved again when I found the place I want to be for good. I also finally sent Sol & Georgia's story A Dark & Stormy Knight, to my editor, wrote a short story that's been nagging at me called Snow White & the Eighth Dwarf, and started another contemporary romance which I'm simply calling Cleo's story while I search for a title. Maybe that's why my Best Read list for the year is so short.

Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell

I'm not generally a fan of stories told in missive format, but this works. Lincoln has been hired to monitor and ensure that employees are using their computers for business purposes only. Sadly, he doesn't have the necessary gestapo mentality for the job. Instead, he gets hooked on the email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer in which they talk about their lives.

It would be easy to see Lincoln as a potential stalker, but because your privy to his private thoughts, his attachment to Beth comes across as sweet, and long before they actually meet, I was rooting for them to get together. This is just such a charming story. You'll probably be seeing more books from this author on next year's update.

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes
by Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Donna Ball, Virginai Ellis, Debra Dixon, Nancy Knight

I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but I loved this. All the stories share a southern theme, and many are reminiscent of a simpler time. Some are sweet, some are funny, all are enjoyable. These are the kind of stories that become family legend. I actually got this from the library and then bought it, I liked it so much. So get it, kick back in your rocking chair, and visit the south.

The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister, Book 2) by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan never disappoints. She's one of only two auto-buy historical romance authors for me, and her Brothers Sinister series is every bit as good as the Turner series and every bit as re-readable. I love how Milan has a recurring theme about women recognizing their own value in a society that doesn't, and yet she always manages to keep her theme fresh in each book.

Wool (Silo Saga) by Hugh Howey

Dystopian fiction is hot right now. The cool thing about it is that everyone's vision is different. In Wool, humanity has retreated into silos because the world outside has become poisoned. They've been there long enough that memories of the world before have disappeared. This allows the powers-that-be the opening to propagandize the people, but the truth has a way of coming out. Not easily, but when you have a stubborn, resourceful heroine, the lies must be uncovered.

I've already blogged about this book here because there's a lot writers can learn about creating tension from Hugh Howey.

This book was originally published as a serialization, but I recommend the omnibus so you can get the full effect.

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts Series)
by Stacia Kane

This series isn't for everyone. It's dark. In this urban fantasy, the world is dominated by the Church of Real Truth, whose power comes from its ability to protect the world from angry, rampaging ghosts. The heroine Chess leads a double life. On one hand, she's a ghost-hunting Church employee, but on the other, she's a junkie who lives in Downside, the bad part of town. She's a truly tormented character. The one saving grace in her life is Terrible. Yes, that's his name. He's the enforcer for one of the gangs in Downside. Not an attractive man on the surface, but oh, once you look deeper, he's everything Chess needs. There are a number of books in this series and a few novellas. Even though the series is on-going and the books build on one another, none of them (so far) are cliff hangers, so I feel safe recommending the series.

Don't Let Me Go
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is the endearing story that centers around nine year old Grace who has a problem. Her mother isn't taking care of her because she's drugged out. The other five tenants in her building barely know each other, but when they start to care for Grace, they go from strangers to something like a family.

This probably wouldn't have made my Best Books List if it weren't for the character Billy Shine. Billy is an ex Broadway dancer who is afflicted with Agoraphobia. He hasn't left his apartment in twelve years, but when Grace needs him, he slowly manages to step out of his safe little world. All of the characters in this story, in one way or another, step beyond their comfort zones, but Billy captured my heart as he demonstrates that heroism is also found in actions that don't always look heroic to outsiders.

Wife 22: A Novel
by Melanie Gideon

Alice's 20 years marriage has a case of the doldrums. On a lark, she signs up to participate in an anonymous online study about marriage. The problems really start when an attraction develops between Alice and the researcher assigned to her.

About halfway through, I suspected that Alice's researcher might not be quite what he seemed, but then the author convinced me I was wrong. I love when an author can make me unsure of myself. And since it's hard to write a romance where the main character is already married and keep it interesting, extra kudos to the author.

BTW, best last line of a book ever: "Shush, you nutty ho ho," he says, as he pulls me into his arms.

Best Audio Books:

I find audio books difficult to recommend. I have too hard a time separating the performance from the book itself. But I've done the drive from Seattle to Boise too often. It's become long (roughly 8 hours in real time; double that in perceived time) and boring for me.Too boring to go without an audio book. Since I was moving, getting one from the library wasn't going to work, and I didn't want to spend the money on something I would only listen to once. The solution turned out to be Harlan Coben Unabridged CD Collection: Promise Me, The Woods, Hold Tight. I already know I'll reread Harlan Coben's books, so I thought this would be a good solution. Any time I take a lengthy road trip, these CDs will be in the car. An added bonus: Harlan actually reads one of the books himself.

Best Nonfiction:

WHO RULES AMERICA The People Versus the Political Class
by Eric O'Keefe

I debated about including this because the country is so polarized politically, and my political opinions don't have anything to do with my writing life, but this book isn't about left and right. It's about how career politicians stack the deck.

If you're like me, you don't really have an opinion about campaign-finance reform. At least not an intelligent one. Mostly  we have no opinion because we don't understand it. When the McCain-Feingold bill was being passed, my gut said something needed to change, but whether that bill was what was needed? No clue.

I wish I had understood then what this book explains so simply and succinctly. So succinctly that this book is only 105 pages. If you think even that's too much for a subject as boring as campaign finance, I'll tell you that the author doesn't get into the boring stuff. Instead, he talks about what it means in the real world.

...And sadly, I know most of you will pass on this, but remember how you thought economics was boring? But somehow Freakonomics became a best-seller. And it was because it talks about interesting, real world ways economics impacts us. So take a chance on this one.

Biggest Disappointment:
Your Wicked Heart (The Rules for the Reckless)
by Meredith Duran

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I didn't even finish Your Wicked Heart. That I'm saying this about a Meredith Duran story is nearly unbelievable. She's one of my few auto-buy authors. But I choked on how hard she had to manipulate this story to create the set-up. The hero is unbelievably obtuse and makes an assumption that one single minute of reflection should have told him was only one of the possible explanations (and not even the most likely explanation) for the heroine showing up where she did. That said, I hold Duran in high enough esteem that I will be reading the series this novella introduces.

So that's my year in books.

Well, books read anyway. My newest installment of the McKnight Romance series will be out in early 2014. If you'd like to know when it gets released, you can get notified by subscribing to the Stay Up-To-Date feature on my Amazon author page.

If you like fairy tale retellings, especially ones told by a snarky character, my 2013 release, Snow White & the Eighth Dwarf is now available.

What are the best books you read last year?

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