(And if you make it to the end, there's a spoiler treat for you from Boleyn Reckoning.)
First, numbers. Because it's Valentine's Day and my husband likes numbers. Happy Valentine's Day, Chris!
Reading stats for 2013
Total Books Read: 144
Historical fiction: 26
Young Adult: 25
No surprises in genre--mystery is always and forever my highest read and the deepest dream of my heart to be able to write well :)
But numbers alone can't express the hundreds of hours of joy and sorrow, wonder and curiosity that those 144 books gave me last year. I don't read for statistics--I read to live. To live the many lives outside of the single one my physical body is allowed.
You may have noticed in 2013 that my monthly (more or less) roundup of books changed slightly. I used to list and grade every book I'd read in that month. Shortly after my own first book was released, I changed it to Books I Loved in that particular month. Once my own work--and heart--were out there for judgment, I could no longer bring myself to write anything but good.
(Note--I am not claiming that negative reviews have no value. I am simply claiming that I am not, have never been, a reviewer in any but the most personal sense. And personally, I honor all writers who endure to the point of publication and cannot bring myself on a public stage to criticize those efforts.)
Besides, I am remarkably easy to please. I open every book expecting to enjoy myself, so there aren't all that many books I'm leaving off my monthly lists :)
To return to 2013, I starred twenty-eight books as my absolute favorites. To narrow it down further, here are my Top Ten:
QUIET/Susan Cain/Non-fiction--the subtitle says it all (The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking)
FANGIRL/Rainbow Rowell/Young Adult--a fanfiction-writing college freshman copes with a bi-polar father, an absent mother, and a twin sister who's drinking her way through their first semester. Also, there's a boy.
DEAD SCARED/S.J. Bolton/Mystery--the second Lacey Flint novel follows the DC as she goes undercover at Cambridge after a rash of student suicides.
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN/Louise Penny/Mystery--Quebec detective Armand Gamache risks life and honor to ensure corruption and evil is not allowed to flourish.
TEAM OF RIVALS/Doris Kearns Goodwin/Non-fiction--the award-winning account of Lincoln's presidency and how he welded former opponents into staunch allies.
REPUBLIC OF THIEVES/Scott Lynch/Speculative--long-awaited third novel in which Locke Lamora is hired to disrupt an election and (finally!!!) meets up with his love, Sabetha.
JUST ONE EVIL ACT/Elizabeth George/Mystery--Barbara Havers is in over her head when her neighbor's daughter is kidnapped; how far will she bend the law to help?
NICCOLO RISING/Dorothy Dunnett/Historical fiction--first in a series, 15th-century Flemish apprentice Claes becomes merchant and soldier Niccolo and uses his brains and charm to put himself in the center of trade and politics.
STILL WRITING/Dani Shapiro/Non-fiction--a mix of memoir and writing advice, I underlined multiple passages.
KING HEREAFTER/Dorothy Dunnett/Historical fiction--my absolute favorite of 2013, this stand-alone novel about an Orkney Islands earl who becomes the first leader of a combined Scotland in the 11th-century is a brilliant look at the man sometimes known as Macbeth.
And because it's my blog and I can do what I want, three new-to-me authors in 2013 who each had multiple starred books in my notes:
ELEANOR AND PARK and ATTACHMENTS/Rainbow Rowell/Young adult and Adult--just slightly behind my favorite (FANGIRL) were Rowell's other novels. Check her out!
GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH/Robin LaFevers/Young adult--a historical fantasy series following female assassins trained in convents dedicated to the God of Death, LaFevers writes engaging, complex heroines and grounds her world and politics firmly in historical detail.
UNSPOKEN and UNTOLD/Sarah Rees Brennan/Young adult--the first two in a contemporary gothic paranormal series, these novels have a wonderful heroine, Kami Glass, who's determined to save her town, figure out why the boy who talks to her in her head can no longer stand her, and also be an award-winning high school journalist. Suspense, romance, and laugh-out-loud funny to boot.
And if you've endured with me this far--thank you! And as a reward, below is my favorite romantic scene from the upcoming THE BOLEYN RECKONING. (Warning, spoiler for those who have not read THE BOLEYN DECEIT.)
After several dances, William said abruptly, “Do you not care to dance, Lord Exeter?” Dominic could hear the leashed anger and knew that the king had been more troubled by Margaret Boleyn’s nastiness than he’d let on.
Dominic was not in the mood to settle his temper. “It needs the right music and the right partner, Your Majesty.”
William spread his hands wide. “Command the musicians as you will.”
All eyes were on Dominic as he straightened away from the wall. He kept his eyes on the king, knowing that William expected him to either apologize or back down. Instead, Dominic commanded the silent musicians, “Play a volta.”
William gave a short laugh of surprise and perhaps even approval. “And the right partner?” the king asked with elaborate courtesy.
“Surely you can spare Mistress Wyatt for one dance.”
What could William say? It was you taught me that trick, Dominic thought as William passed Minuette over to him. Ask in public so that one cannot refuse without appearing childish.
His heart misgave him when he realized that William meant only to watch them, which meant that no one else would dance, either. It was reckless to the point of insanity, but as the violin played the opening strains of a volta, Dominic forgot to care. All he knew was that he was going to dance with his wife.
He had never danced a volta with Minuette. It had been years since he’d performed the rather risqué dance at all, but his lack of practice did not show. More than any dance, the volta depended on the connection between partners and that was so strong that he thought the most attentive might actually see the sparks between them.
This girl’s been in someone’s bed. But not recently enough. The two years he’d waited for Minuette before their marriage was as nothing to the frustrations of the last five months. After those blissful weeks at Wynfield Mote following their wedding, enforced celibacy had weighed on him more than he would have thought possible. All he could think of was the velvet of Minuette’s skin, his fingers tangled in her hair, the length of her body beneath him, her breathless laughter giving way to little gasps of pleasure. It was distracting and infuriating and, when he lifted her every few steps of the volta, his hands curved to her waist and hip, Dominic thought that he would damn them both thoroughly by pushing her against a wall and kissing her.