Friday, January 03, 2014

2013: A Year in Review

My favorite photo of the year.

Two thousand thirteen came with its share of challenges.  It was a heartbreaking year, one in which it seemed like one bad thing kept happening after the other.  There was also much to celebrate, however.  For instance, watching my daughter grow and learn (and just how fun she is!) adopting the amazing Gracie (who is so cuddlicious!), going on a family vacation this past summer, spending time with our families, and just being together.  There is also how grateful I am for this blog, and, most especially for all of you.

I have always believed that my reading coincides with my moods and where I am in life currently.  I did a lot of comfort reading this year, delving deep into mysteries and fantasy novels.  Books are my therapy, in a sense.  I also did quite a bit of soul searching, sometimes without realizing it.  I read a number of books that touched me to the core, helped me through the rough spots, with characters I could see myself in.  It was a good reading year.

I enjoyed answering Jamie's (The Perpetual Page TurnerEnd of the Year Survey last year and decided to join in again this year.  I did alter some of the questions and subtracted a few to make it my own.

1. Best books read in 2013?

I read some wonderful books this past year, but I think these five stand out the most in terms of books I read in either print or e-book format.  It is impossible for me to put them in any particular order.  Each one was amazing.

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I did not read many nonfiction books in 2013, unfortunately, but I enjoyed the ones I did read.  The one that I had the most fun reading was Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

Of the six audiobooks I listened to in 2013, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin was by far my favorite.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

There were a couple of books I was hoping to like more than I did, if only because of all the hype and blogger love the books have already received.  I cannot say I am too surprised about one.  Stephen King's books are hit and miss with me, but rarely have I absolutely loved any of his books that I have read.  The Shining was no different.  The other book that disappointed me was The Memory of After by Lenore Appelhans.  I wanted to like it more than I did.

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

I was not sure what to expect going into either Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and World War Z by Max Brooks, but both knocked my socks off.

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

I was recommending books right and left last year, and continue to do so.  I even gave several copies of my favorites away as gifts for birthdays and Christmas.  Of them all though, I think Christina Baker's The Orphan Train was the one that I recommended the most.  I also highly recommended the audio version of William Landay's Defending Jacob to whoever would listen.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

Juliet Dark's Fairwick Chronicles swept me off my feet this past year.  I fell in love with The Demon Lover and was just as impressed with the other two books in the trilogy,  Water Witch and  The Angel Stone.  I do not often reread books, but this is a trilogy I would like to revisit again one day.

6. New authors you discovered in 2013 and hope to read more by?

While many of the new to me authors whose works I read or listened to last year won me over enough to want to try their other work, a few favorites stand out:

Christina Baker
Cathy Marie Buchanan
Carla Buckley
Alafair Burke
Gail Carriger
Juliet Dark
Gillian Flynn
Mari Hannah
Elizabeth Haynes
Beth Hoffman
Lynda La Plante
Marisha Pessl
John Searles
Simon Van Booy
Menna van Praag

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

When I was a teenager, I devoured romance novels.  I burnt out on them eventually and have avoided them more often than not in recent years.  This year, I wanted to spend more time exploring the genre and its sub-genres.  While I did not read an abundance of romance novels, I did read some that came highly recommended by my fellow bloggers.

Trisha from Tripping Over My Tongue recommended Monica McCarty's Highlander historical romance series and Tasha from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books recommended Kresley Cole's paranormal romance series.  Staci from Life in the Thumb indirectly recommended Jill Shalvis, a contemporary romance novelist, and so I read Simply Irrestible (2010).  These were just a few of the romance focused novels I read this year, and are among the ones that stand out.

My two favorites, however, include Karen Marie Moning's Beyond the Highland Mist and  Juliet Dark's The Demon Lover.  I enjoy urban fantasy novels, many of which contain strong romance elements, and so it really isn't a big surprise I would be so taken with these novels.  I did worry though, given how romance-focused they were, that I might not be easily drawn in.  Boy, was I wrong.

8. Top five favorite covers of a books you read in 2013?

9. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

By far this would have to be Rebecca Walker's Adé: A Love Story.  The writing was beautiful and mesmerizing.  It was like sliding a piece of chocolate onto my tongue and letting it melt in my mouth.

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

Two books in particular stand out: The House At the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman.  Both books spoke to my heart and soul.  They came into my life at just the right moment.

Another book that had a strong impact on me was Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin.  It was an extremely difficult book to take in, but ultimately one that I am glad I took the time to listen to.

A couple of the books I read caused me to loose sleep at night, including Night Film by Marisha Pessl and Elizabeth Haynes, Into The Darkest Corner.  Both were engrossing reads that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I still find myself tempted to check all the locks again thanks to Into the Darkest Corner.

11.Shortest and longest book you read in 2013?

Die For Her by Amy Plum was the shortest book I read this past year at 60 pages.  The longest was Stephen King's The Shining, which was 672 pages.

12. Book that you most wanted to talk about with someone else? 

There were several, actually.  We Need to Talk About Kevin and Defending Jacob most definitely, both touched on similar issues and provided much food for thought, especially from a parent's perspective.

Night Film is another that just begs to be discussed for much different reasons--probably the book I most would like to talk about.  But maybe that's because I just finished the novel and am still walking around under its cloud.

To a lesser degree, Cline Ernest's Ready Player One and  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

13. Favorite book you read in 2013 by an author you’ve read previously?

Reading Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass was like coming home.  I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Kinsey Milhlone, and look forward to catching up with her again this year.

14. Genre you read the most from in 2013? 

I would say a good 24 books I read this past year fall into the crime fiction category in some way.  I read 73 books in all.

15. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of 2013?

I utterly failed the year long read-a-long for War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  My second attempt to read the book, and I couldn't manage it.  I still want to try.  Just maybe not yet.  

I also attempted the What's In A Name 6 Reading Challenge, but came up short.  I came in strong in four of the categories, but two (3 and 4), well, I did not manage to read books with titles that fit into those, as you can see.  I did not go out of my way to read books that would meet the challenge requirements, I confess. So, I think I did pretty well considering.

1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title.
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan 
2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen.
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri 
3. A book with a party or celebration in the title.
Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur (I know, totally doesn't fit--but it's a kind of party in twisted and wrong sort of way.) 
4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title.
Damn Him to Hell by Jamie Quaid (okay, so huge stretch--it's hot in Hell, right?)
5. A book with an emotion in the title.
His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal 
6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title.
The Missing File by D.A. Mishani  
Although I did not commit to reading any particular books this past year, I did make a list of hopefuls.  I only read three of the books on the list. 
1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
2. Garden Spells by Sara Addison Allen 
3. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan 

4. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

5. Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
6. Nightwatch by Sarah Waters
7. The Blind Assassin by Margeret Atwood
8. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
9. The Road  by Cormac McCarthy

10. The Outlander by Gil Adamson
At the beginning of 2013, I said I would read The Shining by Stephen King at the urging of Trish and Jill who led a read-a-long, and I did.  

*                          *                          *

So many book bloggers I love and have followed over the years have stopped blogging or have scaled back considerably.  I am determined to make it to year 10.  After that, who knows.  I was more consistent in posting to this blog in 2013 than I have been since 2011, although I took a number of unscheduled breaks here and there. I don't know that much will change in this New Year. I am less concerned about that as I once was.  

I do not have the time I used to when I first started this blog. Meaning, time spent writing reviews and other posts has suffered as a result.  I have given myself permission, however, to be more free with my reviews, write less if I want to or make them more personal reflections of how a book impacted me (which is what I prefer to do anyway).  It's a constant balancing act, trying to find time to read and blog in between my other priorities.  I am sure many of you can relate.

I have no set goals for this year.  After much thought, I have decided not to participate in any challenges, with the occasional drop in for Carrie's "I've Always Meant to Read That Book!" Challenge.  There are a number of books up for discussion this year that I too have been meaning to read.  Now seems like a good time!  I do want to take part in more of the book discussions in my one online reading group that has monthly group reads.  I already have the first two books we are discussing for this year ready to go (Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie and The Husband's Secret by Lianne Moriarty).  I also want to make 2014 a Year of Re-Discovery.  I want to spend the year reading authors who are old favorites and dive into the back lists of authors who I have only tried once or twice.  I will still be reading new books--I can't help myself--but expect to see some familiar authors and titles popping up too.

I do not know what 2014 will hold, but I am hopeful.  I am looking forward to spending another year with you all, and hope you will continue to visit and comment when you can.  

May 2014 be filled with much love, laughter and happy memories for you all--as well as many good books!

Mouse and Her Grandparents, Christmas 2013

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. You really did have an incredible year in books (I know you had sadness in your life and I'm sure this did help!). Such an eclectic list, and many of these made my favorites at one point or another. I'm glad you are sticking around. I'm pretty determined to at least make a minimal appearance otherwise I'd miss everyone!

    1. Sandy - Reading definitely became my escape this past year. I am glad you are sticking around, even if only posting once in a while. :-)

  2. Last year was a mix of joy and sadness for us too. I'm hoping 2014 will be mostly good. :) And I'd say you finished What's in a Name with flying colors -- I was all about stretching the categories and being creative.

    1. Candace - I hope so. I am cautiously optimistic. :-)

      Yes, I definitely stretched some in a couple of those categories. I told myself no challenges this year, but it's so tempting to join Charlie in What's In A Name this year too.

  3. What a great selection of books, I really must get around to getting a copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. A happy 2014 to you and yours and happy reading.

    1. Tracy - I am really happy with my reading this past year. :-) I hope you have a happy New Year as well!

  4. I read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt a few years ago and I still think about it. Mouse is the cutest thing ever!!

    1. Kathy - Mouse is quite a character! :-)

      I am looking forward to reading Beth Hoffman's latest book. CeeCee isn't a character I will soon forget, that's for sure. She stole my heart.

  5. Oh my ... this is a huge surprise! I'm honored that CeeCee's story touched you so deeply, and I'm delighted to see that she, Oletta, and all the gals in Savannah have earned a spot on your list. Thank you so much!

    Here's to a much better year; I wish you and yours joy and laughter and all good things in 2014.

    1. Beth - Thank you so much. I hope you have a wonderful year too!

  6. It seems that the older we get, the more bittersweet the years become. I hope that 2014 is a happier year for you.

    I enjoyed reading your answers. I listened to Defending Jacob on your recommendation and am SO glad I did. I still think about that ending, wondering what I would do in the same situation. (Don't want to say more and give anything away.)

    Also, Night Film totally kept me up nights, and the ending of that one killed me, too!

    I loved CeeCee when I read it a couple years back, and this year, Beth's latest, Looking for Me, made it onto my favorites list. I may have to read CeeCee again while waiting for whatever she has next.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Carrie - I am glad you enjoyed Defending Jacob as much as you did. I'm with you in regards to the ending. And the same with Nigh Film. What a book that was!

  7. The last couple of years have been really off for me when it comes to blogging. I think I had gotten a bit burnt out so I took things a bit more slowly (not posting as much, etc.) and now I feel like I'm enjoying my blog again. Which is what it is all about! I hope this will be a great year for you! May there be lots of good books and good memories! And, that picture of Mouse - just darling!

    1. Iliana - I know what you mean. I am enjoying blogging more now that I've taken some of the pressure off myself. It took me awhile to get to the point where I was okay with it, but now that I've accepted my limitations, I'm good. :-)

  8. I hardly blogged at all in 2013, so I am attempting to get back on track for 2014. I would like to make it to year 10, too! I wonder what the blogging world will even be like then... Good luck with your reading and blogging this year!

    1. Kelly - I wish you luck with getting back on track!

      I can't imagine it will be much in a couple more years, but then again, it very well could be. Things change so fast, don't they?

  9. LOVE your description of Ade: A Love Story!

  10. I enjoyed this post Wendy and am wishing that 2014 brings you and yours only the best. Mouse is adorable.

    1. Diane - Thanks, Diane! I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well.

  11. I have to agree with you, books are my therapy as well. I can find comfort and connection within them.
    Wonderful wrap up post! I have been wanting to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for some time. Happy 2014!

    1. Naida - Books are so good at that, aren't they?

      I hope you get a chance to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and like it if you do!

  12. I get so many of my reading ideas and new authors from your blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year of book reviews and updates about your daughter and family (both here and on FB). I was pleasantly surprised to see you mention Monica McCarty on your yearly roundup. :) Here's hoping 2014 is an uplifting year full of joy and awesome reads.

    1. Trisha - Thank you! I am glad you introduced me to Monica McCarty's books! I still want to read the Campbell trilogy eventually.

      Have a very happy New Year!

  13. It sure sounds like you had a really great year of reading (even if the majority were comfort reads...sometimes that is exactly what you need)! I still think about Into the Darkest Corner...that book was just so darn creepy! And I don't have a lot of blogging goals for this year either. I like to keep blogging as stress free as possible so if I need a break here and there I will take them. I'm just thankful for all of the blogging friendships that I have made! I hope you and your family have a wonderful 2014!

    1. Samantha - And it was good comfort reading too! :-) It's hard not to think of Into the Darkest Corner whenever I'm locking up at night.

      I think keeping blogging stress free is what will keep you and I going. :-)

  14. You mentioned so many great books in this post. I listened to the audio edition of Defending Jacob and it was excellent! The Dinner by Hans Koch was another that was better on audio, I think. I hadn't decided whether to read Night Film or not, but it has been mentioned in several wrap-up posts that I've seen, including yours now, so onto the TBR list it goes!

    1. Laurie - I will have to check out The Dinner by Hans Koch on audio. That's one I haven't read or listened to. If you do read Night Film, I hope you like it!

  15. Wishing you a wonderful 2014...and sending many thanks for the lovely gifts you sent me as my Secret Santa. I was overwhelmed by your generosity and the beautiful packaging, Wendy!

  16. I've been really sad about all of the bloggers who have called it quits in the past year--some without even a word--but I'm grateful for my longtime blogging pals who are still making it work. I'm glad you are Wendy. Sometimes I think it's time to close up shop but blogging and the things that come with it do make me happy.

    I'm so curious about We Need To Talk About Kevin but I'm also scared! Same with Night Film but for different reasons.

    I hope 2014 is a great year for you!!

    1. Trish - It is sad to see so many bloggers disappearing, especially without any warning. I still get much enjoyment from blogging. It's differently different than it once was, but like life, my blog has had to change with me.

      We Need to Talk About Kevin was such a thought provoking book. It's not an easy one to read, but I do recommend it when you are ready for it. Night Film was creepy and suspenseful and dark and fun. I hope you will give it a try!

  17. Happy new year Wendy, here's hoping it's a good one :) Blog when you can, we'll be here. This year not so many blogs I read closed, but in 2012 there were ones I really loved so I know what you mean. It has an impact on you even though those blogs belong to others. Glad to see the Hoffman on your list. A great book!

    1. Charlie - Thank you, Charlie! Same to you! And thank you for all your support.

  18. Love reading your survey! Sorry I hadn't visited much at all last year... life with a toddler and work was just way busier than I used to be... I like the cover of A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea! I did enjoy reading Defending Jacob last year, and Night Film is my next book - looking forward to it! I still have to read CeCe yet! And We Need To Talk about Kevin! Argh so many books...

    1. Christa - I hope you enjoy Night Film, Christa! I know all too well what you mean about life being busy with work and a toddler to boot! :-) Have a Happy New Year!

  19. I still rave about Ready Player One and I listened to it on audio (LOVE!!!) over a year ago now. Here's to 2014! I am so looking forward to the possibilities!

    1. Sheila - I don't know if I would have liked Ready Player One as much had I not listened to it on audio. Wil Weaton did such a great job.

      I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  20. Your little girl is just wonderful. I love the picture of her in the sand. What a joy! There's a girl who knows how to live!
    I tried War and Peace, once. Won't again. I read only a few pages and was bored.
    Loved your description of Ade.
    I like your Year of Rediscovery idea.

    1. Nan - Aw, thanks, Nan! She had so much fun at the beach that day. :-)

      I don't know why I'm so intent on reading War and Peace. Maybe because I made my husband get me a really nice copy for Christmas a few years back. I'll give it another go and if it doesn't work out, maybe it wasn't meant to be.

  21. I really love reading your book updates! And that photo of Mouse is so pretty!

  22. Nice to have found you - like your blog! If you don't mind am going to "steal" your list of challenges. I am a moderator on a UK book site (readitswapit - do drop in!!) which started as a book swapping site, but with the cost of postage these days......we are more discussion and suggestion founded. But I am always looking for challenges and that list is great. I have also spotted books I've never heard of, so will be looking for a few of those! I have a blog too - Mac-adventures with books - mostly book reviews. Nice to "meet" you!
    Mrs Mac.

    1. Susan - Thank you. The challenge wasn't mine, just one I participated in this past year. The topics change every year, which makes it even more fun. :-)

  23. I'm so happy for you that you had such a good reading year. I've read a few of the books you listed in your best of list. I haven't read Beth Hoffman's book, Saving CeeCee Honeycut yet, but I own a copy! So, your recommendation and the fact that one of my adorable kitties is named CeeCee means I will be reading this book asap!

    I thought The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Illusion of Separateness were both wonderful books. Night Film is high on my list of books to read. I've never read the 5th book on your list but plan to look it up!

    Terrific post!

    1. Amy - Thank you! You must read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt if you have a kitty with the name CeeCee!

      The Day the Falls Stood Still was such a wonderful book. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

  24. Wow, you had a wonderful year in books. The picture of your daughter at the beginning of the post is so cute!

  25. Year ten sounds like a reasonable goal to me. I scaled back my own blog quite a bit this year. Now that I'm writing much less often, I'm enjoying it a little more when I do. I'm even thinking about scaling back up again later this year. I think I'm at year seven or eight by the way.

    1. James - My blog will be turning 8 this coming July, if I'm counting right. So, we're about the same age.

      Totally unrelated, but you've inspired me to join a couple of challenges after all. I think I'm ready to give it a try again. :-)

  26. Wendy, I'm so lucky to have known you for as long as I have. It's been so fun watching Mouse grow up. She is so stinkin' cute!
    I'm glad you discovered CeeCee Honeycutt. Love that book and love to recommend it.

    1. Stacy - Aw, thanks, Stacy! I am so glad to know you. :-)

      I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read read Beth Hoffman's work.


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