Seems like just yesterday the writers here at HST… were compiling our favorites in different forms of media for 2012. Turns out another year has already passed and it’s time to decide everything from 2013 we feel worth mentioning, starting with a new category to us, books. Apparently only Heather and Lauren know how to read.
Favorite Book (Fiction) of the Year: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Is it really surprising that my favorite book published in 2013 was written by none other than Mr. Khaled Hosseini? No, not really. I’m starting to think that he can do no wrong as an author. His debut novel, The Kite Runner, is still one of the top five best books I have ever read, and although this one did not impact me in the same way as that one did (I doubt many will in the years to come), his latest was still a beautifully written story that stayed with me for some time after it ended.
Side note: You will notice that I said favorite book published in 2013. Although this was my favorite published this past year, my favorite fiction read was actually Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (published in 2012).
Favorite Young Adult Book: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Sorry Allegiant (ending of the Divergent Trilogy), but as far as Young Adult novels go this year, The 5th Wave has you beat! In this book we join Cassie during the 5th wave of an alien invasion. While this may not exactly sound like my cup of tea, I was in it for the budding romance between Cassie and the mysterious Evan Walker. And now I am sitting here like a bloody idiot with a big smile stretching from ear to ear as I think about them. Like Allegiant, this too is a part of a trilogy, and I am pumped for the next two!
Favorite Memoir: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
I find strange, strict religious organizations like Scientology fascinating. But I had no idea just how strange (i.e., crazy and intense) Scientology really was until reading this Insider account from the niece of the current Scientology leader. Sure, you see people who champion Scientology like Tom Cruise, and you think, goodness these people are nuts, but you don’t really see the manipulative, controlling, abusive underbelly of the religion until you have heard it from the mouth of someone that has stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. I mean, for goodness sake, people don’t just stop being Scientologists. If they are deeply embedded in the organization, they literally have to escape. It is scary to me how Miscavige’s experiences might seem “normal” for children who grow up not knowing any other way.
Most Disappointing: Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence by Ross Mathews
I was really looking forward to reading this one. I first knew him as “Ross the Intern” on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and I always thought he seemed like a big, quirky, energetic, goofy ball of fun. So naturally I assumed I would really take to his writing style and find his stories hilarious (as I find him funny in person). Sadly, his personality came across more annoying than anything in his book. In fact, I’m not so sure this book was actually stories from Ross’s life and not some sort of sneaky promotional material for Gwenyth Paltrow… he certainly dropped her name enough! It’s a very safe bet that I will not be reading his next book (about nothing).
To Read Pile: I would share this with you, but there were 61 books published in 2013 that I still want to read… I am currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt though (and loving it so far).
This year HST… decided to add Books to our lists of Best Of’s to wrap up the last year since Heather and I have formed our own book club for the site, and upon realizing that I didn’t actually read as much as I thought I did in the last year, I vow to read at least 3 books per month (comic volumes don’t count towards this tally) so that I will have a wider selection to choose from in finding those worthy of mention in a list like this. With that said, I still have a few worth mentioning this time around.
Favorite Book: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
When I first heard that King was writing a sequel to The Shining I was pretty excited; not just because he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, but also because I would finally be forced to read this previous novel. After reading The Shining I was a little more hesitant with the desire for a sequel because I had no idea how he could follow up a “haunted house” story as strong as this novel. On that point, if there is anything to be disappointed with in this sequel it’s that it doesn’t illicit the same creeping feelings of fear as The Shining does, but the little boy from that novel had a story worth telling, and I’m glad King shared it with us.
Honorable Mentions: In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Favorite Book (Read This Year, but Published Before 2013): The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Like with Atonement, The Book Thief, and The Shining, The Thirteenth Tale was one of the best books I’ve read in a while at making me feel like I actually experienced something with a book, way past just being simply entertained by a story. I can’t quite explain it, but there was something to the structure of the story as one of the characters struggles through telling the true story of her life that swept me up from the first pages, and what I learned while reading, especially revelations at the end has me excited to revisit The Thirteenth Tale again in the near future.
Runner-Up: The Shining by Stephen King
Favorite Comic Story Arc: Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (Written by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo)
I tried to get into comics back when I was in high school, but it was just too hard to jump into the middle of a title’s current run. Then the new 52 happened. As you’ll see, the Batman title continues to be one of my favorite comics I’m currently reading, and after a relaunch and the arc with the court of owls, a high point was reached when I finally got to experience an event where the Joker comes to play and wreaks havoc on Gotham and the full extent of the bat family. Many other titles have a couple issues that tie into this story to fill out all of what the Joker has planned now that he’s back from his year MIA, but the main story in Batman stands out all on its own.
…you can’t force yourself to trust. So you put all your doubts in a little box and bury it deep and then try to forget where you buried it. – The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
There are no half measures in childhood. Everything is cataclysmic. – Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler
“They believed in the monsters before the monsters showed up.” – explaining the survival of children during an apocalypse in In The After by Demitria Lunetta
“What use is logic, when it takes you so far in the wrong direction?” The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
At twelve, I found a lump under my nipple and thought it was cancer until the doctor convinced me it was just my boob developing. – Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar by Kelly Oxford
Continuing Comic Epicness: Scott Snyder’s Batman, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga
Favorite Comic Issue: Deadpool Vol. 4 Issue #8 (Deadpool starts conversing with a new voice in his head), Superior Spider-Man #9 (Goodbye Peter Parker)
Favorite Panel: From Deadpool Vol. 4 #11 – Written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, Art by Mike Hawthorne
Usually this category would probably go to a panel that was just mind-blowingly drawn, but I just love the simplicity of Deadpool calling out a character from a different universe. He is insane enough to be privy to something like this, and it gets me every time.
Most Disappointing (Tie): Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Based on what I’ve read in quick responses to the end of the Divergent trilogy, most people seem to be more upset with the end of Allegiant than anything else. I’m actually fine with the end, it’s everything else that bothers me. Everything in the previous books have built up towards some climactic battle within the walls of what Tris and the rest of the city believed to be the entirety of the world, but the story loses focus in this book that is supposed to wrap everything up. Roth reaches too far and spreads the story too thin where it really matters. And makes us read about it from two points of view this time around.
Most Disappointing (Tie): Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
It’s almost unfair to expect a second book as great as The Thirteenth Tale from Setterfield, but Bellman & Black takes a great leap off a cliff with this one. The idea of ignoring the past to keep from being haunted is interesting, but in order to execute it Setterfield asks the reader to sit through hundreds of pages of nothing but trivial day-to-day business of the main character. This was not the follow up I was hoping for.
Top of To Read Pile: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill; Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction; Joyland by Stephen King; Night Film by Marisha Pessl; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, The Returned by Jason Mott; S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
Still Playing Catch-up (Comics): Fables, Locke & Key, Mind the Gap, Morning Glories, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Walking Dead