Top Reads of 2013

I must apologise once again for not having posted in some time. I have been going though some tough times in my personal life which has not given me any real time for blogging. I am hoping to rectify this at some point but for now, here are my top reads of 2013.

10: Angelfall by Susan Ee

angelfallSo many people have raved about this book I half-expected it to be a complete disappointment. Luckily (for me) it turned out to be an exciting, adrenaline-filled rush of a book – one I simply could not put down. Penryn was a great protagonist and I really ended up loving Raffe, the ‘fallen’ angel who becomes her companion when Penryn has to save her younger sister Paige from the clutches of a group of angels intent on harming her. 

9: The Tied Man by Tabitha McGowan

tied manThe Tied Man was an enthralling, unnerving and intense read. I felt positively battered when I got to the end of this book but it was well worth the emotional turmoil it put me through. This was a very dark read but was also incredibly emotionally satisfying.

8: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

speechI thoroughly enjoyed Speechless and thought its overall message was a positive one. Protagonist Chelsea learns the hard way the damage passing on a seemingly harmless piece of gossip can cause. Seeing her go from being a rather thoughtless, unlikable character to one with remarkable strength and courage was a joy to read.

7: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

sweetThis book gutted me. I think it is one of the most heart-breaking books I have ever read. Managing to be both bleak and yet somehow hopeful – this book has stayed with since I first read it. This was my first Sara Zarr novel – it will definitely not be my last.

6: If I Die by Rachel Vincent

if i dieI loved the whole Soul Screamers series but this entry (book 5 of 7) was my favourite. This is where the stakes are truly raised for protagonist Kaylee Cavanaugh. When Kaylee discovers what fate awaits her, she finds herself turning to an unlikely source for help and comfort (and as a total fangirl of this pairing I couldn’t help but squee at this development!!). This was my favourite book series read this year and If I Die was the most exciting and emotional installment.

5: Dark Space by Lisa Henry

dark spaceLisa Henry is a new author for me. I was totally blown away by Dark Space – a truly fantastic space opera saga (and I am overjoyed to find out a sequel is now in the works!!). It was creepy and intense and had an almost claustrophobic atmosphere (being set primarily in a space station on the edge of alien territory) yet at the same time it managed to convey a sweetly compelling love story. The protagonists Brady and Cameron are two very different young men but the bond that grows between them was lovely to behold, even if there was an overwhelming sense of impending doom clouding their developing romance.

4: Sins & Needles by Karina Halle

sinsKarina Halle was another new discovery for me this year. Sins & Needles was the first book written by her that I read. I immediately tore through Karina Halle’s entire back catalogue once I had finished reading this.  Although overall I think I may prefer her Experiment in Terror series, I was totally sucked into this book and I loved the main character Ellie Watt. Her flaws made her seem all the more real and relatable to me (also Camden is one of the hottest love interests I have ever read – definitely my book boyfriend of the year – move over Adrian Ivashkov!!).

3: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

jellicoeI had a bit of a Melina Marchetta book fest last year. I read all of her catalogue – except for this book – which I had heard from reliable sources was the best of all her works. I could not convey eloquently enough in words just how brilliant this book is. I would urge anyone who has not already read this to seek it out. It is a fantastic, beautiful, if somewhat initially confusing read. I saved it for a time when I most felt I needed to read it – and the book did not disappoint.

2: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

wanderloveI adored this book with the strength of a hundred fiery suns. I stated in my original review that it is probably one of the best, if not the very best, YA novels I have ever read. I loved the story of Bria, a young girl who finds herself on a journey through Central America, and her friendship and eventual romance with Rowan, a young wanderer she meets on her travels. An evocative and inspirational book – I could not put it down. When I finished reading I almost wished I hadn’t read it yet so I could discover it all over again.

1: Suicide Watch by Kelley York

suicideThe number one spot was a close call for me but in the end I had to go with Kelley York’s Suicide Watch. This book has left a lasting impression on me and I have actually re-read it several times already this year. This book made me feel – it completely and utterly captivated me. It manages to be both depressing yet completely uplifting at the same time. Suicide Watch is a truly beautiful story that will haunt me for a long, long time.

Honourable mentions:

These books just fell short of my top ten but were exceptional reads that I would wholly recommend:

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Crush by Laura Susan Johnson
Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Speechless by Hannah Harrington

speechThis was a little gem of a book. I wasn’t sure at first how much I was going to like it. It trod similar ground to several YA novels I have read in the past. Formerly popular bitchy girl on the outs with the popular crowd – check. Girl has to find new friends because the old ones no longer want anything to do with her – check. Former friends launch a campaign to make said girl’s life miserable – check. Girl meets boy who sees through all the walls that she has thrown up around herself and likes her for who she is – check. Formerly bitchy girl learns life lesson due to her new outcast status – check. However, although many of the themes were familiar, Hannah Harrington has taken these well-used tropes and made a truly moving, inspirational story that sucked me in and didn’t let go until the final page.

Speechless is told from the perspective of a young high school girl called Chelsea Knot. Chelsea is a renowned gossip – she literally cannot keep anything a secret and relishes in her status as the best friend of the most popular girl at her school. However, at a New Year’s Eve party, she stumbles onto a secret and when she blurts out what she has witnessed to her friends, she indirectly sets of a chain of events which results in a young boy from her school being seriously beaten and hospitalized.

Once she realizes what she has done, Chelsea finds the guilt she feels overwhelming. She cannot allow the perpetrators to get away with what they have done. She reports the incident to the police, in the process losing all her friends from the in-crowd as the two boys responsible were two very popular jocks, and one of them happened to be her best friend’s boyfriend. Even though she does the right thing, Chelsea still feels a terrible shame for her part in what has happened and so she takes a vow of silence in an attempt to atone for the mistakes she has made.

Practically overnight, Chelsea becomes a social pariah as one by one all her friends begin turning on her. However, Chelsea finds solace in an unlikely source. She is paired together in art class with Sam, best friend of Noah. At first Chelsea thinks Sam must despise her for what happened to his friend but Sam is nice to her and doesn’t seem to hold her accountable. She also becomes close with another friend of Noah’s – a young freshman called Asha – whose sunny disposition and zest for life helps Chelsea cope with the changes in her life. Even Andy, a boy who has every reason to hate her, eventually comes around to the fact that Chelsea is genuinely sorry for her part in what happened and they end up becoming sort-of friends. She gets a job at the cafe where her new close-knit group of friends work and some of the best scenes take place here, with this group of adorable misfits.

Chelsea was a wonderful detailed and realistic character. Full of flaws but strong enough to realize them and change herself for the better. She started off pretty unlikeable but as her vow forces her to look inwards, at how she has acted and treated people, she shows massive character growth. I couldn’t help but root for her throughout. Hanging around with her new friends, Chelsea begins to appreciate the goodness in people. Her relationship with these oddball characters, especially her burgeoning romance with Sam, shows her that there is more to life than gossip, drinking and parties. Sam, Asha and Andy were all endearing characters and I just loved every moment devoted to them and their varying relationships with Chelsea.

Overall this was a fantastic story of a young girl’s road to self-discovery. The characters were fantastic and although the story could have become cliche-ridden, it never once fell into that trap at all. after reading this, I can definitely say I am a big fan of Hannah Harrington – will need to move swiftly onto Saving June!

Overall score: 5/5 stars