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Pass, Check Out, Buy: 2013 Noteworthy Novels Year-End Wrap Up

The hour of year-end reviews is upon us. In this post, I will be briefly covering each of the 2013 titles that I did not review in full length earlier in the year. Most of these titles are from established authors and were heavily hyped. A number fell short, but there are definitely books worth checking out from the library or buying among them.

 

FANGIRL_CoverDec2012-725x1075 Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

VERDICT: Buy

Rowell has hit her stride. Eleanor and Park was very good, but Fangirl is a fantastic book of our time. Fabulous, relatable characters that stick in your memory. Great plotting and denouement. Rowell chose an excellent, original, and timely premise–girl who writes “Harry Potter” fanfiction grows up and goes to college–and runs with it. As always, very insightful with a bigger message behind the fun. A great choice for fans of John Green.

 

any duchess Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

VERDICT: Buy

An excellent addition to Dare’s entertaining Spindle Cove series. Dukes, wagers, witty repartee, diabolical mothers. Humorous and historical, Dare manages to be funny without going overboard. Any Duchess is a Cinderella story about an entrepreneurial barmaid who wants to open a bookstore for the ladies of “Spinster Cove” and an arrogant, rakish duke on the run from duty. All in all, a fun, well-written romance novel from an author to watch in 2014.

 

cinnamon and gunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

VERDICT: Buy/Checkout

Crazy lady pirate kidnaps a chef and drags him on her madcap adventure for revenge and riches. I really wanted to love it because the premise was so incredibly fabulous. Brown assembles lots of moving parts into a hodgepodge whole: recipes, epistolary format, romance, adventure, drama, general silliness. Simultaneously serious and zany, Cinnamon and Gunpowder meshes at times while going over the deep end at other times. It’s an interesting experience that I would recommend, but consider carefully–and read a sample–before buying. It tends to be a love/hate book.

 

longbournLongbourn by Jo Baker

VERDICT: Checkout

Pride and Prejudice as seen from the downstairs. Once again, a great concept. I would definitely recommend Longbourn for both literary Austenites and those who favor more commercial continuations of her books. Baker revisits Pride and PrejudiceĀ more successfully than P.D. James, who wrote Death Comes to Pemberley back in 2011. Still, the delivery does not quite live up to the great concept here. The plot waned a bit in the middle, drama was fished for in some unsavory places, and the upstairs featured rather sparingly. Still, it was a rather enjoyable and quite interesting reading experience.

 

signature all thingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

VERDICT: Checkout

If Eat, Pray, Love was Gilbert’s streetable novel, The Signature of All Things is the passion project that she had to wait to publish until she became famous. Originally, I embraced this idea because I did not enjoy Eat, Pray, Love. The book began with a bang, simmered pleasantly, and then took an odd jut off into left field. The Signature of All Things revolves around the world of 1800s botany and the medicinal plant trade. Gilbert really does the historical detailing right for the world of science during this time period. Her core characters are also very intriguing and well developed. Gilbert staggers, however, when introducing a love interest into the equation. Still, The Signature of All Things is a fascinating departure from Gilbert’s previous work and an original tale that will delight historical fiction lovers (and gardeners!).

 

burial ritesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

VERDICT: Checkout/Pass

Based on the compelling true story of an Icelandic serving woman accused of murder in the 1800s, Burial Rites has a gotcha premise and a stunning cover that catches the eye. Kent’s debut novel, now in the works as a major motion picture starting Jennifer Lawrence as the lead, did not resonate the way great literary fiction should. Kent’s often times stilted dialogue left a veil between the characters and the reader that obscured my appreciation of a book I was predisposed to like. In striving to breathe new life into this story for American audiences, Kent seems to juggle more than she can handle, and the quality of the book suffered as a result. Still, an intriguing story that I will be interested to see brought to life on screen.

 

LeanInLean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Verdict: Pass

Sandberg has a timely, well-intentioned message. Her TED talk was excellent. Lean In, however, was a disappointment. She wanted to put her challenging manifesto on paper, but it really doesn’t have the meat for a book. It was a short book that could have been shorter. Save yourself the money and watch her TED talk. Same message for free without all of the filler.

 

the accursedThe Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

Verdict: Pass

Stephen King claims that The Accursed may very well be the first postmodern Gothic novel. It’s a 700 page tome that Oates has been mulling over since the early 1980s. The Accursed is a brilliant, yet exhausting book that sets out to challenge experts in Gothic literature, romanticism, and dark romanticism. I would recommend this book only for hardcore fans of classic romantic/Gothic literature. Only someone with the proper background could really appreciate the magic this book has to offer. For the neophyte, it’s overwhelming.

 

Part two to come tomorrow!

 

~ Michelle

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