Favorite Reads of 2013

Even though we are nearly two months into the new year, I wanted to share my favorite books of 2013.  2013 was a year of new genre’s for me.  For many years I would read only Historical Fiction and literary/general fiction with the occasional crime/thriller for good measure.   In 2013 I was introduced to Urban Fantasy.  The best description of the genre I have heard is that Urban Fantasy is a world where Coke, Nintendo, and McDonalds exist but so do zombies, vampires and werewolves.  You will find several Urban Fantasy novels on my best of 2013 list.  I have listed them in reverse order with links to the reviews.

 

#10 The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – The Hangman’s Daughter #1

My Rating – 4.5 Star

This was an exciting Historical Mystery that had been on my radar for many years.  The setting is  German town in the 1600’s.  Several children have been murdered and the townspeople see what they consider to be ominous signs following the deaths.  Rumours of witchcraft are on the tongues of the townsfolk.  In the midst of the fear and panic of the town, the local hangman and his young Doctor friend, set out to discover whether there is a witch or if there is a more mundane answer.  Fans of historical fiction and mystery alike will enjoy this book.

#9 Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Series – The Dresden Files  #7

My Rating – 5 Star

I am travelling a well trodden path with this pick.  In 2013 I read the first 10 books of the well loved Dresden Files.  Most consider this series to be the gold standard in Urban Fantasy.  The books are well written and Jim Butcher is a master storyteller.  I can tell you that even after 10 books, the series feels fresh and the characters remain interesting.  Dead Beat was my favorite of the series thus far and the only of the series that I have given 5 stars.  This series has a high focus on magic.  In this world, magic is available to many but some people have a greater aptitude.  There is more than one realm and vampires, werewolves, fairies and very wide array of mythical beasts make appearances.   Most people will say this is their favorite urban fantasy series.  While it is not my favorite series, it well written and exciting.  A good place to start if you are new to the genre.

#8 The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Series – The Order of the Sanguines (#1)

My Rating – 5 Stars

James Rollins has long been one of my favorite authors.  He is known for his face paced, character driven, action adventure novels.  In the first of his new series, James Rollins teams up with Rebecca Cantrell for a novel far outside the bounds of his regular writing.  The result is a brooding and atmospheric vampire story with religious intrigue reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel (if they had vampires….).  Urban Fantasy fans will enjoy this story and people new to the genre may as well.  In fact, this was the first Urban Fantasy novel I had ever read and I was hooked from the start.  The religious intrigue aspect may scare off some Christian readers.  As in a book like Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, whenever there is religious intrigue or elements of religion used in a story, some people will love it while others hate it.  Personally, I found that religion was treated respectfully and treated as fact, not mythology.  You may disagree.  Read it and make your own decision.

 

#7 The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – The Clan of the Cave Bear (#1)

My Rating – 5 Stars

This may take the award for most interesting book I read in 2013.  The setting was prehistoric time and the cast of characters were Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals.  I have read many books set in ancient time but I have never read a book that attempted to look so far back before recorded history.  I loosely call this historical fiction.  It is meant to be historical fiction but is likely more fantasy.  Regardless, the book in incredibly interesting and unique.  I spell it out better in my review.  I would recommend this book for any reader.  As a side note, if you really want to read the second book in the series, I would suggest reading this review first.

 

#6 Under Enemy Colors by S. Thomas Russell 

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – Charles Hayden (#1)

My Rating –  5 Stars

This book is a treat for fans of Naval Historical Fiction and fans of Alexander Kent, Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell.  As an added bonus, the author is Canadian. (Go Canada!)  This is a wonderful novel is set at the beginning of the French revolution and follows the exploits of first lieutenant (and would be Captain) Charles Hayden.  The main character is a half French/half English which, given the period of time, makes for some interesting plot lines.  There are battles on the high seas, mutiny and Court Marshals packed into this must read novel.  It is fast paced and enjoyable.

#5 Event by David Lynn Golemon

Genre – Sci-Fi/Action-Adventure

Series – Event Group Adventures

My Rating – 4.5 Stars

You might ask why my #5 read only has 4.5 stars, while lower ranked reads have 5 stars.  I had some fundamental issues with how the book was written, specifically, the inability to follow the large cast of characters.  That said, it was one of the most enjoyable reads of 2013 and I found it to be both thrilling and exciting.  It gives off an X-Files/Warehouse 13 vibe.  As these are two of my favorite TV shows I was bound to love this book.  I put my enjoyment before my issues and enjoyed this great story with visitors from beyond.

 

#4 Monster Hunter International by Larry Corriea

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Series – Monster Hunter International (#1)

My Rating – 5 Stars

This wins the 2013 award for “Most Fun While Reading” and is incidentally, my favorite review of 2013.  The book is, by my description, a Monster Western where the Cowboys are bounty hunting, big gun wielding, blow it up if it moves good guys.  Seriously, I don’t think you can read this series without a smile on your face.  The series does not take itself too serious and the reader is taken along for the ride.  There is a lot of violence, a lot of dead monster and dead monster gore.  Unlike most Urban Fantasies, the main characters are “mostly” regular folks without any magical ability.  There are plenty of mythical beasts throughout the series but they are never what you expect them to be.  If you are looking for wizards and magic then you better look else where.  If you are looking to read about guys who get paid to carry big guns and shoot monsters, then you better grab this one from your local bookstore immediately.

#3 Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Series – Peter Grant (3)

My Rating – 5 Stars

This is probably my favorite Urban Fantasy Series.  There is a world with mythical beasts and magic.  Unlike any other I have read, magic is not supernatural but rather scientific.  The patron saint (I use this term figuratively) of magic is the one and only Isaac Newton.  Peter Grant, a British police constable, is placed into a department of two ( he is number two ) where he is trained as an apprentice wizard.  Throughout the series, Peter runs scientific tests to explain how magic works and how it affects the world around him.  It is full of dry British humour, so if that is not your thing, you probably won’t like the book as much as I did.  It is a fun and refreshing take on the genre and well worth your time.

#2 Faithful Place by Tana French

Genre – Crime/Psychological Thriller

Series – Dublin Murder Squad (#3)

My Rating – 5 Stars

After reading this book in her amazing Dublin Murder Squad Series, Tana French firmly established herself as my favorite author.  She write with a beautiful and lyrical prose that captivates her reader.  Each of her books has an interesting plot and crime to solve but its not the plot that drives the story.  You will be hard pressed to find richer, more developed or more nuanced characters than in a Tana French novel.  Faithful Place is the best example of her amazing writing.  It tells the story of a Irish Police Detective who is brought back to his birthplace and investigates events that changed the course of his early life.  The story is mesmerizing and the characters are memorable.

#1 The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

Genre – Historical Fiction

Series – None/Standalone

My Rating – 5 Stars

No novel came close to packing the emotional punch of the Starboard Sea.  This told a story of pain, loss and the road to redemption and some themes that resonated deeply with me.  This tells the very personal coming-of-age story of a broken young man who has been sent to a last chance boarding school for the rich.  While there are themes that some readers may find disturbing, it provides a powerful look into how pain and trauma can alter a life and how honesty and relationship can repair brokenness.  For two to three days after reading the Starboard Sea, I had a “book hangover”.  I simply could not bring myself to read anything else as I could not get this one off of my mind.  While at times the story is bleak, the author has a compassionate eye and interjects light into the characters’ darkness.  It was a wonderful literary experience and my favorite read of 2013.

 

I would love to hear if you have read any of these and what your thoughts were.  Each individual review has user rating option and I invite you to give it a rating based on your own experience with the story.  Reading is a personal experience which, in my opinion, makes sharing the experience so enjoyable.  You really do not know what will appeal to another reader.  What may have been your favorite book or favorite aspect of a story, may be your best friends least favorite read of all time or the part of the story that grated on their nerves.  As always, get out there and read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for baseballbabble.com. Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.

2 Comments

  1. Cameron Thomas
    February 28, 2014
    Reply

    Thank you for these recommendations. Like yourself I’m a fan of historical fiction and also enjoy the occasional mystery thriller. My eyes were opened recently to the medical thriller genre and I’ve found some really great reads. Adrenaline and On The Edge Of Death by John Benedict were especially impressive given that the author has an experienced medical background. It adds a certain authenticity that is hard to match elsewhere. Both of those books had me totally engrossed throughout and get my highest recommendation. http://johnbenedictmd.com

  2. February 28, 2014
    Reply

    Thank you Cameron. I have read very few medical thriller. I will have to look up John Benedict.

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