2013 Reading Recap / Top Reads of 2013

I have 190 books recorded on my LibraryThing.   This IS counting a number of picture books, but maybe 10 to 15 at the most.  The rest are at least fifty pages or longer as that was my criteria that put in place when I was ten years old (fifty pages or so to make the list.)

Here are the books (including picture books) that made five stars out of five stars.  I rated them as I read them.  Some may have been already featured on this blog this year. They may or may not have been new this year.  They were all new-to-me books.

The list is in alphabetical order by title.

My Top Reads of 2013:
The Amish by Donald B. Craybill (Adult Nonfiction)

Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg (Adult Nonfiction/Family History)

Apollo’s Outcasts by Allan Steele (YA/Teen Fiction/Science Fiction)

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Lee (Fiction)

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Fiction)

Below by Meg McKinlay (Juvenile/YA/Middle Grade Fiction)

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell (Juvenile Nonfiction)

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction)

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction) – One of my hopes for winning the Newbery Award this year.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds (Picture Book)

The Drama Years by Haley Kilpatrick (Nonfiction)

 Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction – Fun!)

Expecting Better by Emily Oster (Nonfiction)

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach (Nonfiction)

Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smolenyak (Nonfiction/Genealogy)

Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar (Nonfiction)

How They Croaked:  The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (Middle Grade Nonfiction)

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother by Julia Sweeney (Nonfiction/Memoir)

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle (Fiction)


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Fiction)

Listen to My Trumpet by Mo Willems (Picture Book / Easy Reader)

 Losing It by Erin Fry (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction)

Mean Moms Rule by Denise Schipani (Nonfiction/Memoir/Parenting)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction/Autism Spectrum/Sibling Death)

Monkey Ono by J. C. Phillips (Picture Book)

Moving Miss Peggy by Robert Benson (Nonfiction/Memoir/Dementia)

Noni is Nervous by Heather Hart-Sussman (Picture Books/Anxiety)

OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn (Teen/YA Fiction)

Paging the Dead: A Family History Mystery by Brynn Bonner (Fiction)

Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley (Nonfiction/Memoir)

The Supper Club Book by Dave Hoekstra (Nonfiction)

The Truth About Love and Lightning by Susan McBride (Fiction)

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols (Juvenile Fiction)

A Wilder Rose by  Susan Wittig Albert (Fiction/Historical Fiction/Biography)

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce  –  This is the first novel by Ms. Bryce who live in the UK.   

The main character, Megan, has some kind of brain cancer (it’s not revealed right away) and the novel opens with Megan’s arrival on the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital.  She does not care for this because, after all, she is almost fourteen.   There are elephants on the curtains!  Her elderly grandfather (he is 95) assures her that this is more “fun” then being with old grumpy adults.  There is only one other teen with cancer in their wing, and they are friends of sorts.  His name is in the title: Jackson.   He is quite outgoing, and Megan wants him to be wrong when he informs her that he friends will not visit.  He was not wrong.  
Anyway, I need to do a bit of comparison to similar books (books about teens with cancer) I have read over the years.   To do that, the comparison can be summed up with the following:  It is better than Lurlene McDaniel’s books (example: Six Months to Live), but not as good as John Green‘s The Fault in Our Stars.  I have read most of McDaniel’s books, just to note – and many of them when I was twelve and thirteen years old.  And just to note an even older book in this type of genre  that I read at age 12 or so, I think I like Waiting for Johnny Miracle by Alice Bach more than this book in some ways. (The characters seem more developed for one thing.)
 I suppose part of my complaint is that the reader does not get to really know Megan very well.  There is an air of detachment, to be honest, and throughout the entire book.   As I read, I started to understand that Megan is trapping her feelings and thoughts in herself, and talking to no one, but it is difficult to see this at first.   The remainder of the characters remain relatively undeveloped.  Jackson himself comes partially “alive” as a character, but even with him, as the title character, I expected to get to know him a little more.   Once again, there was a feeling of distance.
This book is definitely for young middle grade readers – ages 9 to 12 or so.  I personally would have liked this book at ages eight or nine – I loved Angie and Me at age 8, for instance.  (Here is my blog post on that book from 2008.) 
Date Published: January 2013 in Great Britain; April 2013 in USA– by Bloomsbury.

Date I First Read Book: October 2013

A Matter of Days

A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer (2013)  YA/Teen Fiction

Nadia and her younger brother Rabbit are alive after their mother die from BluStar, a virus that travels around the world and kills 99% of the population.  Their uncle Bean is a doctor who has been working in a top secret project for the government. He has a vaccine that he gave to Nadia and Rabbit, but their mother refused it.   He has returned to his father’s home across the the country, and when their mother dies, Nadia and Rabbit set out to join their uncle and grandfather in West Virginia.  This is the story of their adventures along the way.

I really enjoyed this book – maybe in part because it is not nearly so “scary” as Stephen King’s The Stand, and maybe in part that it is general not so full of “bad” people and violence as other books of similar nature and content.   Even though there is SOME violence – and some hinted at as well – in the aftermath of this disaster, it is not overwhelming.  Generally most of the characters are good people.  I’d like to think that most people would be nice in the aftermath of such a disaster.  

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan
Copyright 2013

This is a fantasy and/or science fiction story is intended for middle grade readers. The main character and his friends are all 12 years old.  Christopher Lane and his friends have been chosen to go to a private government school because they show particularly strong “Ability” skills.  The premise is that all twelve year olds (starting with their 12th birthday, and lasting only until they turn thirteen) have some “ability” but some have it stronger. They have been invited to a posh school to learn how it works, and to help save the Prime Minister who is in danger – from an incident that happened thirty years ago.  Meanwhile, there are twin boys being trained elsewhere to use their abilities for more sinister reasons.  

I enjoyed this book.  There is nothing on this book to say that is the first of a series, but it could be, indeed. The ending, which I will not give away, lets me think that there will be more in the future.

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Cherise Mericle Harper

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Charise Mericle Harper
Publication Date:  January 7, 2014

First, let’s get the business part out of the way:   I acquired this book as a paperback ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) at ALA 2013. . . so just a couple of weeks ago!   Let’s remember I that I am a Librarian who primarily is a stay-at-home-mom at present.   However, I thought this that this book would be an interesting read for my 7-year-old niece who is about to begin second grade. As a note, it might still be a little beyond her reading abilities, yet, but when I gave this book to her to read, she was thrilled with it.  There are many illustrations as Just Grace illustrates many of the stories in her book! Niece spent lots of time going over the illustrations.  Yay!   The book is recommended for readers ages six to nine years old.

This is the latest installment of Just Grace series of books. One of her friends, Grace F, is inviting over several girls for her birthday party, which is to be a sleepover in a tent!  Outside!  Everyone else is excited, but Just Grace is not exactly excited. She is rather scared of the idea of sleeping outside in a tent.  Is it safe?   Meanwhile, Just Grace talks a lot about learning about the Earth in school (third grade), and the songs that her teacher makes up to help them learn.

 I will admit here that this is the first Just Grace that I have read, and I really enjoyed her as the heroine of this story.   The author does an excellent job of capturing the voice of a third grader.  For me, as an adult, it was a quick and easy read, but it also found my third-grade self lurking . . .  I would have loved this book when I was in third grade!

(In third grade, I read books such as The Little House books, Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge, Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy books and other books such as Rebecca C. Jones’ Angie and Me.)

Moving Miss Peggy by Robert Benson

Moving Miss Peggy: A Story of Dementia, Courage and Consolation
by Robert Benson

I read this little book early this past Sunday morning.   The copy of it was acquired on Saturday afternoon at ALA 2013.  Mr. Benson was there in person to sign copies of it.  I had never read any of his works before.  I may send him an email now that I have read the book.

This is a very well-written and poignant story.  It is written in the third person for the most part.  It is not written from the point of view of the author, although he is obviously a character in the story.  Sometimes it is addressed as “we” (the four siblings who must decide what to do with their mother), and then each sibling or spouse is named when necessary.  

Miss Peggy, as she is most often called, married young and gave birth to five children over the next 16 years.  After her husband passed away fairly young (their youngest child was still just 16 years old), she led a rather independent life working and enjoying living.   However, in the last couple of years, some things haven’t been quite right with her, and her living children gather to decide what must be done for her, and who will do what things for Miss Peggy.

She is experiencing dementia, and it is getting worse.  She is not quite the self she used to be.   She has already had to give up driving.  It is finally decided that she must be moved into an assisted living facility, and her large townhouse must be sold   The siblings set out to find just the perfect location for their mother.  In the meantime, they are trying to carefully dissolve their mother’s household and belongings.  Various pieces of furniture goes to various grandchildren who are moving out on their own, for instance.

It is a beautiful story, and it really resonated with me.   I have experienced some of these things recently with my grandpa recently moving into assisted living.  I inherited some very special furniture. . .  and this past Sunday, my grandpa was able to share again the story of how he and grandma acquired that furniture more than sixty years ago (they were moving, and many of their possessions were lost in a flood.  This was some of the new furniture that they were able to get at cost.)  Grandma died seven years ago now, but she was experiencing dementia at the time.

I highly recommend this book.      

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Published in 2008)

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago.

I should have read it earlier, but to be honest, I forgot about it.  I remember a co-worker reading it in 2008, but at the time, my son (the first one) was struggling for his life and then died, and then we were packing up to move 1,800 miles away.   I just did not have the time or energy just then.  And then I forgot about it.  Perhaps I forgot about it on purpose, because it was not written by my beloved L. M. Montgomery.   Nevertheless, it happened, and a couple of months ago, it was suggested to me as something I might like on GoodReads.

I have been more active again on GoodReads in the last few months because I was mostly curious about what recommendations it could produce based on what I’ve read.   I still don’t have everything I’ve ever read listed there.  I am still short, a bit, on LibraryThing, where I have been a full member for over five years as I still prefer it over GoodReads any day.   I’ve been trying to get every book I’ve ever read listed on there, but that will be difficult because even though I started keeping lists of books I’ve read age age 11, I only counted books that were 50 or more pages in length.   Picture books I am way behind on.  I am already trying to remember.

Anyway, I borrowed this book from the library, and reluctantly started reading it.  Within the first ten pages, I had trouble putting it down.   What I liked the most were the glimpses into the short lives of Anne’s parents. There was not really enough about them! (One of my only criticisms of this book.)  The saddest parts were how Anne cannot go to school very often due to the circumstances of the families she lives with.   She wanted so badly to go to school.  She wants so badly to have real family and friends.  Actually, it is fairly depressing at times – but I had to finish the book anyway to make sure everything would lead up to Matthew picking up Anne in Bright River.

The author does not try to capture L. M. Montgomery’s voice, which was good, because that would have been difficult to do. The author herself does a fine job in her own voice trying to capture the story of Anne before she arrives on Prince Edward Island.

I award this book five stars, despite it being rather depressing at times!

One more note:  The most upsetting section of this book is when ALL of Mrs. Hammond’s children are given away.  She does not get to keep even one of them.   That did make me want to vomit.  Perhaps I will give this book 4.5 stars instead.