Top Five of 2013

New year means time for my 2013 Top Five list. Like last year these are the books that were real surprises and completely unexpected in just how wonderful they’d be. They managed to get me excited, engaged, emotional, and managed to change how I saw the world just that little bit.

Because I read some pretty wonderful authors as well as books in 2013 I am mixing things up a bit and compiling a top five authors as well as books. I only managed to read 45 books in 2013 because of Uni, other commitments, and “things”, but there were some absolute gems within those 45. Looking at it now, it almost seems like the year of the Young Adult novel which is interesting.

2013 was also the year I read a lot of particular authors or series which was very rewarding, however it also makes choosing a simple 5 rather hard. I am not going to number them because really, it won’t mean all that much, they all could be number one.

Top Five Books

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
It was hard to find the right Thursday Next book to choose from those I read, but this won out. The entire nature of the narrative was weird and bizarre as per usual but offered something new and different to the series. Being the fifth book in the series a lot has come before it and a lot comes after it in the next two books but while each book brings new stories and people, there is a common thread through it all and a great sense of familiarity despite each book being very different from one another. It also made me read Pinocchio so that was a bonus experience right there.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Oh do not talk to me about this book. This like The Book of Lost Things have had messed up my life so much, I mean really it is quite unfair. This is a beautiful story, it is about finding out who you are, trying to find a place in the world, and about friendship and life and all the crazy unknowns about being a teenager. And you truly have to listen to his brother Hank’s song ‘Looking For Alaska‘ which is about the book because it is just as wonderful and emotional as the book itself, and while you can listen to it before reading because it doesn’t contain any exact spoilers, it has so much more meaning once you’ve read the book.

Artemis Fowl and  the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
If only an entire series could be selected this would be one I’d pick. This is the eighth and last book in the Artemis Fowl series, and I could easily have also picked the seventh book to accompany it in this list but I didn’t. I think, remembering back to the moment when I finished, this was a much better choice because while the seventh book was emotionally involving and wonderful, I think this one rides of the back of that and brings it to a whole new level combining everything we’ve seen from the series so far. A really exceptional read.

Please Ignore Vera Deitz by A. S. King
I had been trying to find this book for awhile. I cannot remember exactly what made me want to start reading it, I think I may have stumbled on one of A. S. King’s quotes and went from there. Throughout the book there are certainly a number of wonderful quotes about life, society, being a teenager, a friend, someone’s child. However I found it it was worth it on so many levels, I got so much out of this book that made me look at the world just a little bit differently. And after all, isn’t that what a good book should do really?

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I have wanted to read this for awhile, and with the movie being released now was the time. Like Please Ignore Vera Deitz, this book was filled with so many wonderful insights and poignant moments about life, being a teenager, trying to find your place in the world. Chbosky has a way with words that suit his characters so well. You can picture everything and with Charlie as our eyes you just follow him and watch the world go by. It is really beautiful. There is a mystery around the whole thing and it just sits quietly as the story goes on, offering us an occasional snippet. But the pleasure is really just following Charlie and seeing him experience life, make friends, and uncover things about himself he never thought possible.


Top Five Authors

John Green
I read all of John’s wonderful books in 2013, from his first book An Abundance of Katherines, to his most recent release The Fault in Our Stars. His writing style is pretty wonderful, he can express the voice of a teenager extremely well, while also offering multiple profound and insightful moments in deep or seemingly mundane moments and strange circumstances. Away from Looking For Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Paper Towns had to be my other favourites.

Eoin Colfer
If we don’t already adore him for his entire Artemis Fowl series, we love him a little more for his new series W.A.R.P. Colfer has a wonderful humour in his writing, the witty nature of his characters and the absurdness that can occur is his books is a joy to read. Colfer’s imagination is captured in his books and there is no end to the surprises that he comes up with in his work.

Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde was introduced to me by a friend and here we are a year later and I have been sucked into his books and numerous series and I don’t really feel like coming out. The humour, pure imagination and creativity, not to mention the complete literature focus is more than enough the adore his Thursday Next books, but even others like The Last Dragonslayer have the same Fforde style and engaging nature that bring you into this constructed world and you just cannot wait to see where it’ll lead and through which twists and surprises on the way.

Neil Gaimain
Neil is on this list because it is Neil basically. But I read his novel The Ocean at the End of Lane and it was just excellent. It was such an awesome book that mixed magic and reality, as well as childhood memories and mystery that you really are quite moved by the whole thing. I’ve also included him because his short stories in M for Magic were so haunting and wonderful that you just admire the skills that exists in one person to make you so moved and affected without seemingly doing anything too grand and extraordinary, but in facts hide the extraordinary and magic in the seemingly simple.

Aurelio Voltaire
Getting to review and interview Voltaire about his new book was a serious highlight of 2013 I cannot tell you.  Having fallen in love with his music it was no doubt I loved his book as well. But it wasn’t just my love of his work that makes him great, it is also his wonderfully storytelling abilities. For a first time writer he did an excellent job with his book Call of the Jersey Devil, and his history as a song writer really shines in his descriptions and his narrative. I’m not sure whether Voltaire plans on writing another fiction novel anytime soon, but if he does, I’m sure it will be just as wonderful.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S King

Published: October 12 2010
Goodreads badgePublisher: Random House
Pages: 336
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. 
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

I am so glad I read this book, I had been trying to get my hands on a copy since about February and I am glad it was worth the wait. I knew early on this was going to be a phenomenal book; I was planning on giving this book five stars from the first few chapters, something that does not happen very often. It is excellently written and King manages to say so much in so few words, and speaks volumes with meanings hidden and woven into the life and thoughts of Vera wonderfully. It is an excellent look at society and how society sees things, ignores things, and treats the world around them.

King’s novel tells the story of Vera Dietz, a high schooler who is working full time at a pizza place, while also trying to recover from her friend’s death, be a teenager, and deal with life, her father, and her conscience. This seemingly vague plot is hard to describe without giving it away so I won’t say much, but I will say that we are given this plot in a less than chronological fashion, yet still seemingly so. Through the book we jump through time as well as perspectives to see the fractured sequence of events as we are slowly revealed and enlightened with the story of Vera and Charlie, and how growing up can be a tough time for everyone and that there are some things you cannot change.

I think the fact that the story is broken up and from many perspectives is what makes this story excellent. There are short single paragraph chapters that offer a quick snippet of information or detail; long chapters that follow Vera’s thoughts and life through her eyes; and there are others that are just for the reader, chapters from characters who want to explain their side to us, explain to us what Vera does not understand, or will not accept. If we want to start listing all the brilliant aspects of this book, just the fact that King has broken up the book in these chapter styles is wonderful enough, and the idea that as a reader we are being explained a story, but not always in a language that feels like we are being told is just adding to this wonderfulness.

King has managed to grasp not only the show not tell side of good storytelling, but also making us become involved and emotionally connected to each character, even the ones we probably don’t like very much, or those we take pity on. A lot of this comes through Vera herself, as a character she is highly understanding while still being confused herself and critical. The friendship and conflicts we are shown between her and Charlie as they grow up together is strong, and this relationship comes through Vera in everything she does and does not do. But not only that, her own imperfections make her a lot more powerful. Her own struggles and issues are something to commend her for because they not only shape what she does, but why she does it, who she tries to be, and where she wants to go. There really is so much to be taken from something that seems relatively straightforward at the first glance.

The dialogue within this story is very well done, King captures the friendship conversations and inner thoughts of Vera through all stages in her life, capturing the appropriate tone and reasoning a teenager would have. I especially thought that the conversations Vera has with her father were amazingly written and presented, their relationship is certainly not perfect, but there is a great connection between the two that we are able to see both sides of, and by the end of the novel I think Vera sees it as well.

A lot of the novel is Vera telling us her story and making insights about her life and those around her. She makes passing comments and assessments about the issues with American schooling and reading, college scholarships for football over intellect, as well as aspects of society, all managed with this dry, sarcastic, conversational tone of an observational teenager. These critiques and insights that Vera points out are slipped in so seamlessly that they do not appear to be an protruding social judgement, instead, with the way King has constructed Vera, it is an acceptable point to make, and with the tone of Vera placed upon it, then King can make these crucial remarks without them feeling out of place.

The cover of the book has a review by Ellen Hopkins, author of the Crank series. She says this book is really special, and it is. It tells a story like no other, but it does so by not necessarily with sweeping metaphors and imagery, nor obvious moralistic messages. But yet King has them. She uses Vera to say so much more, in simple language, little snippets of sentences and thrown away remarks to talk about fitting in, being a teenager, hiding secrets, school and education, drinking, life, parenthood, family, pagodas, pickles. All of these things get their say and they are all spoken about. It is truly exceptional to read, it has the ability to tell you it is ok to be yourself, but that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy, that is why it is fantastic. A small part of me wants to compare it to Looking For Alaska, just a small part though because King takes it in her own direction.

What this book does is show you that there are people behind the people. There are the public faces and the truth they are hiding behind it. There is something very powerful that King has done, she is showing us that life is not perfect for any one, and what you see may actually be something far from the truth, something instilled and created to hide a truth, not matter how big or small it may be. I adore it.

I don’t want to keep explaining the power this book has, but there are lessons learnt in this book by Vera and by the reader. Each chapter makes you understand the world better, makes you look at life, your life, other people’s lives and find perhaps, something in this story you can take and make your own life so much better.  My high school experience wasn’t like it is depicted in the American books and movies, but if I had this book in high school, it would have been an excellent escape, something to hold on to that would help when things got tough. And that is something I am not sure King ever intended to do, and if she did, then she succeeded spectacularly.