Leo’s Top Ten Reads of 2013

…well, eleven reads, really. Sorry not sorry. ( ̄ー ̄)

So, before I get started, I need to add in a few honourary mentions for books that either aren’t out yet, or, in the case of one, don’t actually exist as published books yet. It seems weird to say that books from 2014, essentially the future, were my favourites in 2013, hence the mentions now.

Shadowplay-CoverShadowplayby Laura Lam would have probably come in third on this list had it been released this year. It’s a tricky situation with Pantomime, because it was released earlier this year, but…I’d already read it in 2012 as an ARC. So I keep forgetting it’s a 2013 book. So, because my neat little list is already written, both it and Shadowplay get a massively neon mention here. Read both: they’re excellent. Also, read Laura’s post about helping Sophomore authors out, because it’s true and awesome.

Mini-mini excerpt from review (because I can):
Shadowplay is a gorgeously written novel with so big a heart the pages can barely contain it. There is scope and ambition and a very clear sense that Lam knows precisely what she’s doing; the perfect author-puppeteer behind Micah’s stage.”

A Secret Book That Isn’t Even Acquired By A Publisher Yet – I know I could have just called it an unpublished manuscript, but where would the fun be in that? A manuscript I read by one of my favourite authors, A.E. Rought, would seriously have made my top ten list. It was sublimely excellent. The world needs this book. Just wanted to add this in to give a massive shout out to A.E. Rought and her excellent prose. You rock my world.

The Almost Girl, by Amalie Howard – for the exact same reason as Shadowplay. You need this book in your life. No really, you do: it’s got a “ballsy heroine and a deeper plot lurking beneath the surface…”. The Almost Girl was a total hit with me. Eagerly await this book if you love YA science fiction.

Mini-mini excerpt from review:
“Riven is more likeable than she first seems (and definitely a girl I’d love to interview!), with a heart bigger than even she thinks. The Almost Girl is strong, fast and undeniably addictive.”

Now, my list:

#11. Playing Tyler, T.L. Costa PlayingTyler-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

Playing Tyler is an action-filled book, but don’t be misled by the cover: there’s no vast war or landscapes of death and destruction. It’s all computer-generated (or is it?) and everything takes place in the safety(?) of Tyler’s own life. It is so, so good and damn I wish there were more books like this; books that really get into the psyche of YA guys and make them just as emotional and vulnerable as girls. It’s reality and it’s nice to read. Furthermore, Ani is smart and fun and brilliant and next to Tyler, they make an excellent team. Their narratives throughout the book simply sing together.

Literally everything about this book is amazing. It is subtle science fiction that manages to press all the right buttons whilst maintaining a very complex story that is as shocking as it is thrilling. It is a page-turner and completely unputdownable. I inhaled this book, it was that good.

This is a book you have to read, because it doesn’t just hit the spot, it tap dances all over it.

#10. Skulk, Rosie Best

Excerpt from review:

Skulk is an absolute page-turner that I couldn’t put down; it was just brilliant. There’s absolutely nothing to say about Skulk that isn’t positive… there just isn’t. One of the best Strange Chemistry books to date, this is within my top three books. It’s completely unforgettable and exciting. The characters are real and human and I imagine that when I’m in London this weekend, I might see Meg skulking about. With identifiable characters that break the YA norm of all being within the YA range themselves, Best has quite literally taken a fistful of real life and smeared it all over the book. I especially admired the parental abuse: it wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t physical, but it’s still there and it’s still relevant and highlights that there are about a million different flavours of abuse. I like when difference is demonstrated; I like when it’s done with skill. Meg is one of the most rounded, realistic YA heroines I’ve read in a long time and I loved her. She’s fun and quirky and interesting. Meg is definitely not a forgettable heroine.

Skulk ends on one of the most gripping, frustrating (in a good way!) cliffhangers that I have ever seen: there needs to be another Skulk book and I need it in my hands, now. Another nugget of Strange Chemistry gold.

blood_and_feathers-_rebellion_250x384#9. Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, Lou Morgan

Excerpt from review:

Blood and Feathers: Rebellion is a pacy, dark and witty urban fantasy adventure that reads like the literary love-child of Supernatural (before it got stupid, judgmental and boring – added: right now) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There might not be any vampires or a team of sidekicks and no monsters and ghouls to kick the asses of, but Alice is a heroine that Buffy would definitely knuckle-bump and it’s almost certain that Dean Winchester (before he became a massive jerk – added: right now) had a hand in the slick, clever script of this edgy and cutting urban fantasy.

Angels with guns and angels at war is definitely a turnaround for the mythology surrounding angels and demons and in this continuation of the desperate situation from Blood and Feathers the stakes are higher, the writing sharper, slicker and so much more personal. Morgan’s prose is effortless and sharp, funny and deft. Parts of Rebellion hit hard, right where it hurts. There is a balance that Morgan achieves between the light and the heavy and it’s as though she has been doing it for years. There’s a lot of heart in this book, along with betrayal and loss.

Absolutely superb and definitely freaking awesome. This baby is a winner and damn it, but there had better be another one, because there’s no way that it can end like that

#8. Katya’s War, Jonathan L. HowardKatyasWar-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

Howard has pacing down to an art in this gripping and quick novel that makes me wish there was more YA science fiction that isn’t done-to-death, boring-as-ass dystopian (dystopian stuff is absolutely not my thing) repetitions of the same thing. With dystopian lit, the problem is often that the setting is the story, rather than the characters. Science fiction like this makes me really, really want more. Especially if it’s from Strange Chemistry.

Everything about Katya’s War is a success and it concluded with possibly the best finale I’ve read for a very long time. At the end of Katya’s War I was on the edge of my seat; not from the tension, as I’d clued into what was happening shortly before, but through the feel-good sense of cool that radiates through the final pages.

Katya’s War is an expertly-crafted novel that has no peer in the current YA landscape. Well-freaking-done, Howard. The book left me with an almost feral grin, teeth bared in a mixture of delight and tension, thinking: “Bring it on!”

#7. Cracked, Eliza Crewe

Excerpt from review:

Cracked surprised me, by being not at all what I expected. There’s a certain poetry to how Crewe writes Meda’s darker sides, and it’s addictive as hell, steering the story on with a comfortable yet oddly personal pace. There are no illusions that this is Meda’s story and nobody else’s and the pace is entirely hers. I’m already pining for more Meda.

Ultimately, this is an excellent book that I can’t imagine people disliking: it’s so funny. It’s also smart and cool and darkly adorable. It’s an awesome little jaunt through Meda’s head and her fast-spiralling world, so hold on tight, because Meda’s very quick and she’s slowing down for nobody.

Fast, clever and dark—you have to read this book. Preferably, now.

#6. TaintedA.E. Rought Tainted-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

As with Broken there is an undeniably Gothic tint to the writing and a deep streak of emotion that courses beneath the surface. It makes for a sumptuous book that is a sheer pleasure to read. The way Rought crafts this Gothic, horror-cum-love story is delicate and skilful and makes her shoot even higher on the list of writers I love.

The ending hits hard with one fist and offers you a hug with the other; it’s difficult and trying but completely perfect for the story. I hated and loved it all at the same time. Having been left completely open, with the fate of the antagonist half left unknown (the old “we couldn’t find a body” issue), there is the opportunity for another instalment, despite the resolution of Alex and Emma’s largest problem at hand.

I’d, naturally, love for there to be more books, but the story does have a nice, satisfying end that left me all goosebumpy, so maybe the story is over.

Regardless, Tainted surpassed even my highest expectations and presented an exciting and utterly thrilling horror-romance that easily earns itself the highest rating, with a pocketful of change.

Gorgeous, and damn it, but I love Ann Rought.

Drakenfeld-Cover-Art-540x830#5. Drakenfeld, Mark Charan Newton

Excerpt from review:

I expect that Newton’s new series will be an immediate success, thanks partly to its depth of worldbuilding, managing to create a secondary classical world that is familiar enough to be so, yet still completely his own. Lucan Drakenfeld is a complex character with a good core—and this is just the kind of character I feel has been largely missing from certain veins of fantasy. There’s been too much darkness. It was about time that something lighter, yet still no more stereotyped or clichéd, should break through that darker branch of the genre.

Overall I loved Drakenfeld every bit as much as I expected to. It left me with a deep longing for more fantasy/genre hybrids. Romance has always been something of a part of SFF, way back through the decades, and so to find it in fantasy isn’t classed as anything unusual. But horror and crime and mystery as their own separate elements have not yet breached the hold. Drakenfeld is the first step, with the novel generally being accepted as having “crime” elements, so much so that Newton himself is a member of a crime writers association.

A deep and clever story focused around a man and his duties, with revelations along the way that make for an enjoyable start to a promising new series.

#4. The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett

Excerpt from review:

As far as plot progression goes, there is a lot that happens in The Daylight War and everything leads towards a very, very loaded climax that threatens to be the biggest cliff-hanger of the series. This book deepens matters across the board and things become tenser with every chapter. Unlike the previous books there isn’t as much a theme of solitary battle: Arlen and Jardir both involve their warriors more as the demons grow stronger and although there are battles, the real focus is on the tightly woven and interlaced character relationships and the choices they make. This really is a story about the characters of the world with far less focus on the greater war at hand.

This is strangely at odds with the fact that the greatest battles the characters have faced occur in this book. It is an odd balance, but it works exceedingly well. In the end, this is probably the best of the whole series.

This will be a strong contender for one of the best books of the year, even this early on.

Utterly gripping and brilliant.

#3. The Raven’s Shadow, Elspeth Cooper

Excerpt from review:

The world of The Wild Hunt is vivid and dark but with no stylised grittiness; everything has its place and its reason and it presents a far more realistic world than books that try to veer more towards the grittiness, or those than try to avoid it altogether. It has a balance and it holds throughout.

The ante has really been upped with just how the events of The Raven’s Shadow play out; the end provides a cliffhanger of an ending that will make your jaw drop. With pieces falling into place across the vast stage of the series, and with each and every character making their own moves and steering others into place, The Dragon House is set to be simply spectacular.

You will not read another writer that compares to Cooper in epic fantasy at the moment; she is a talent that will endure and in ten years’ time, she will be a classic. With beautiful prose that presents a brightly-imagined world right at your feet, and a tangled story that weaves and wends without ever losing itself, The Raven’s Shadow is a stunning fantasy novel in and of itself—and a superb continuation of the absolutely stellar series that simply everyone should read.

#2. Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover

Review upcoming… eventually; when I review the rest of the Infernal Devices. I binged the trilogy, fell head over heels in love with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters all over again. The Infernal Devices kicks the pants off of The Mortal Instruments–and I already love that with a fiery passion. Clockwork Princess was heartrending and exciting and surprising and generally everything I have come to love about Clare.

The Infernal Devices proved to be excellent therapy after the terriblehorrible congealed mess that was the City of Bones movie. I miss Will and Jem and Tessa incredibly and wish there had been as many Infernal Devices books as there are The Mortal Instruments. The characters are just better somehow… and, well, there’s Tessa instead of Clary. Tessa. Tessa all the freaking way.

I kind of hate the cover, since it makes Tessa look older (what is the problem with teens/YAs looking like teens/YAs?), snotty and kind of, not very Tessa at all. Some of the fanmade covers I saw whilst searching for this were so much better. Bah!

16046550#1. The Falconer, Elizabeth May

Excerpt from review:

I couldn’t put this book down. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the writing is sharp and beautiful and full of emotion that grabs and sucks you into Aileana’s world. I have no complaints, no niggles, nothing. I cannot find a single fault. No, really

The Falconer was exciting and moreish and, and, and—

Perfect. It ended so suddenly, with so fabulous a cliffhanger that I wanted to take a plane to Scotland (it’s quicker than the car) and hammer on May’s door until she surrendered at least the first chapter of the manuscript for the sequel. Not in a creepy, stalker kind of way, though… More in a ‘this was practically my favourite book of the year’ kind of way.

It has actually been difficult to write a good review for this book, because so many of my thoughts when compiling an opinion generally become a garble of fanboying uselessness. I want more books like this; I want more Elizabeth May. She’s smart and funny and writes like an angel—bit of a writer-crush here? Yep, I think so. 5303332

There was something utterly resonant about The Falconer. From the very first page I was enchanted and swept away. The book was over far too soon. It’s my favourite book of the year without a second doubt. I almost chose something else, but when I thought back to how The Falconer had made me feel, how the story was so perfect and how much I took from it, there was no competition whatsoever. May is wonderful. Just wonderful. Maybe more Americans should relocate to Scotland and write YA books–because it seems to be working well enough so far! All my heart for The Falconer. 

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