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Top Ten Tuesday #4: Books Read In 2013

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Yes, I’m joining in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I was planning on doing a top ten of my books read this year on December 31st anyway, and since that’s the topic of this week’s TTT, why not join in?

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books Read In 2013

I’d love to know what your top books of the year are too, or if you agree with any of my choices – so feel free to leave your list in the comments, or perhaps link to your own top ten. I’m looking forward to the selections! And now, in now particular order, my top ten books read in 2013…

1. & 2. Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #1 & #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

You’ve probably seen these books everywhere on the blogosphere, and they deserve every ounce of praise. Sarah J. Maas has crafted a brilliant fantasy world and cast of characters, and I really hope that the series encourages people who might not normally try the fantasy genre to give it a try. Plus I met the author in October, and she was absolutely lovely – she shows a lot of dedication to her fans. I told her that Throne of Glass was my favourite book of the year, and she also remembered meeting Paola and Charlene a few months and a whole continent ago!

3. All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

An incredibly fun whirlwind of a read, this Young Adult novel involves time-travel and a Doctor… but not the kind of Doctor you’d like to take a trip through time and space with. Yes there’s a love triangle, which I normally hate, but this one isn’t quite as simple – in fact nothing is. I pretty much devoured this book in one sitting and had such fun writing a review full of Doctor Who references (I just had to!).

4. Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons

Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons

Knowing I am a big fan of science fiction, my dad kept trying to get me to read his favourite series, the Hyperion Cantos. I finally picked up the first book in the series, Hyperion last year, and I read book three this year. I’m so glad I decided to read it, because it has proven to be one of my favourite sci-fi series so far – it’s epic, brilliantly written and just amazing. Now I just have book four, which I hope to read in 2014! The first book in the series has been chosen as my bookgroup’s Sci-Fi Book of the Month for January 2014.

5. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind was the first book that my bookgroup chose to read together, and I don’t think we could have started on a better note. Rothfuss’ tale of Kvothe, the mysterious narrator, is gripping and exciting, enchanting and oh so unique. I recently discussed magic systems in fantasy novels, including that of The Name of the Wind, which is referred to as ‘sympathy’. I have book two waiting for me on my shelf and it’s definitely high priority – perhaps it will make my top reads of 2014?

6. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

If you’ve never read anything by Haruki Murakami, then you really should. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about: Murakami’s writing is weird, good weird, and incredibly imaginative. He has written many novels, and whilst some of them are perhaps more ‘normal’, this is not one of them. His writing really makes you think, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to describe a typical Murakami book. Basically, give it a try.

7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I really can’t rave enough about this book! I’ve said this so many times, but I’ve never read anything quite as fun as Ready Player One. With its pop culture references and crazy online world known as the OASIS, it’s pretty much the perfect book for anyone nostalgic for the 80s, early 90s, or any avid games (particularly online gamers). Know someone who would rather play a video game than read a book? Give them a copy of this and they might change their mind…

8. Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling wins ALL the awards for being ‘Most Surprisingly Amazing YA Book’. Being part of the book blogging community, you hear a lot of good stuff about a lot of good YA books – and although I’d heard that Graceling was worth the read, it wasn’t surrounded by all the fuss that Throne of Glass was, for example. I got it out of the library on a bit of a whim and then fell in love. It’s been a great year for fantasy books apparently!

9. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan cover

How close I was to returning this one to the library unread! Not because I didn’t like the look of it, but because I had so much to read and review – but luckily I caught up. Luckily, because wow. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read an alternate history before, and I’ve not read much steampunk, and Leviathan has most definitely peaked my interest in the genre. Not to mention the absolutely gorgeous illustrations that accompany the story.

10. Serena by Ron Rash

Serena by Ron Rash

Seriously underrated and under-read, Serena needs more recognition! A tale of determination, this book truly shocks. I can’t even remember how I heard about it, I just know that as soon as I did I wanted to read it – and ordered myself a brand new copy, which is a rare thing. It’s also being made into a film, featuring Jennifer Lawrence (yay!) as the eponymous Serena and Bradley Cooper as her husband, George Pemberton.

And there we are, my top reads of 2013! What were yours? Share them in the comments below!

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Review

Review: Serena by Ron Rash

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

It isn’t often that I buy a book brand new these days. I’m saving up so I can afford to go and do my Masters – problematic when I have a book buying habit. So normally I get them second-hand.

However, every so often, I encounter a book that just really stands out, and I have to have it now. Serena was one of those books, purely from the blurb. I mentioned briefly before that I have a thing set for books in the Southern US states, so this checked one box. Toss in a 1920s setting, plus a cunning and strong-willed, albeit murderous, heroine, and I’m sold.

Both the reader and Serena are immediately made aware of George’s infidelity, it’s not some great secret that hovers throughout the book waiting to be exposed. This is a brilliant way of setting up Serena’s character – instead of getting upset or angry as many women would in such a situation, she reacts in a rather stoic manner (pg. 7):

“You’re a lucky man then,” Serena said to Harmon. “You’ll not find a better sire to breed her with. The size of her belly attests to that.”
Serena turned her gaze and words to the daughter.
“But that’s the only one you’ll have of his. I’m here now. Any other children he has will be with me.”

A woman ahead of her time, Serena is not afraid to get dirty, not phased by the possibility of injury and is completely prepared for her new Southern life. She takes an active role in the running of the camp, much to the shock of the workers, she wears trousers (dear god!) and rides horses. Refusing to be put down or excluded socially, Serena has wealth, a husband, an education and power, but not the one thing she wants most in the world: a child.

She is ultimately a very strong character, one that you can’t help but admire – apart from that little niggling feeling at the back of your brain, the one that tells you she is cunning and capable of horrific acts, and prepared to kill an innocent child. It’s difficult to decide whether to like her as a character or not, I suppose just as the workers are feeling when faced by Serena – she is a brilliant leader and boss, she knows exactly what she is doing, but she is female and that is not something they can easily overlook in that particular period of time.

I was expecting something dark and claustrophobic feeling, due to the isolation of the lumber camp – but the descriptions of the surrounding woods and neighbouring village make it feel huge, despite the camp and village being hours away from civilisation. The landscapes of the book were beautifully painted, and I got a real feel for the smells, sights and sounds of the forest. Unlike in The Snow Child, which felt very closed in due to the woodland setting, Serena only feels more broad. However, the chapters told from Rachel’s POV (the young girl whom George gets pregnant) seem rather more claustrophobic. She is alone, with very little help, and in danger. This really juxtaposed the difference in social status between the two characters.

The jumps in time were a little confusing, sometimes months would pass and the only way to tell was the age of Jacob, George and Rachel’s son. As for George, I was also unsure about how I should feel about him. The first impression the reader gets of him is that he is uncaring when it comes to Rachel, but he practically worships Serena. He is almost blinded by his love for her, unable to see what she is turning into and letting her wear the trousers (literally and figuratively) in the relationship. However, over time he starts to develop more of an interest in his young son, and also questions his previous actions and decisions, whilst slowly redeeming himself.

Oh, and the shocks in this book. There are so many events you don’t see coming, or don’t want to see coming, and they are brilliant. Starting with the very first chapter, they build up with intensity until the end – the most shocking of them all.

Definitely, definitely worth a read. You’ll begin questioning whether you really support this strong-willed, independent young woman after all, especially with a lack of such figures in books these days. To have one waved under your nose and then have you wonder whether you like her at all is very effective.

Serena is also going to be made into a film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as Serena and George Pemberton. It is set for release at the end of October, and I will definitely be going to see it!
Past Features

Weekly Roundup #23

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.
 
Fahrenheit 451 

Bought

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury a sci-fi classic I’ve been meaning to read for a while, this was a charity shop find – and it’s also the lovely 50th anniversary edition! Sadly, Ray Bradbury passed away just over a year ago, in June 2012. I enjoyed reading his The Martian Chronicles, but haven’t yet read any of his other works – this is next on the list.
  • Serena by Ron Rash – I don’t often buy books brand new anymore. I’m trying to save as much as I can for my Masters, so second-hand books are much more affordable. However, if I think a book is really worth reading and I just want a copy of it, rather than hunting the charity shops I will occasionally just buy it brand new. I don’t know what it was about this book that drew me in – it just sounds really good, and is totally the kind of thing I want to read at the moment. Ordered from the Waterstones website.

What new reads do you have this week?