The Best Books of 2013

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, trying to determine how I would narrow all the books I’ve read this year into my favorites. I’m going to challenge myself and limit the number to five, otherwise this list would go on forever.

My Favorite Books Published in 2013

This is not by order of my affection

 World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)Siege and StormIn the Shadow of Blackbirds

World After by Susan Ee-I loved this book so much because Ee’s writing is evocative, lush and just heartbreaking. Every scene between Raffe and Penryn was absolutely perfect. This book impacted me to my core as did Angelfall.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo-Bardugo knows how to weave a story that is gripping and rich in world-building without any information dump. I love her cast of characters.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters- Winters about broke my heart with this story. I was nearly traumatized but I loved it so deeply. I had to sit my husband down to tell him in detail about the characters and story. Not only that it gave me an interest in this time period.

 In the AfterThese Broken StarsThe Bone Season

In the After by Demitria Lunetta- While reading this I actually had a few nightmares. This rarely happens to me but Lunetta’s writing and depiction of how it would feel to be alone and in fear really crept into my mind.

These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman– I immediately knew I wanted to read this based on the cover. I feared that the cover would betray me as so many of the lovely ones do. Turns out the content of the book was able to exceed the beautiful cover. I loved this story start to finish.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon- Shannon created such an in-depth world that quickly mesmerized me. Warden’s character was incredibly interesting and I needed to read more to find out about him. Paige was a main character I could stand behind.

Ok, that’s 6 books. I couldn’t narrow it down any further than that.

Favorites that don’t release until early 2014:

 The Winner's Curse Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski- This book. I instantly fell in love with Rutkoski’s writing style, characters and this story swept me off my feet. It was everything and more I wanted it to be. So. Much. Love.

Cress by Marissa Meyer- Meyer’s story gets better with each book. I absolutely adore her characters and she is capable of creating unique personalities and dialog.

Closer to the new year I’ll be posting my Blogger Resolutions.

Best of 2013 Giveaway Hop-International

bestof2013

December 18 marks my one year anniversary of book blogging. I’d say I jumped in on an amazing year of books with some of my favorites releasing. I had to join this giveaway hop to share with you, my readers, some of my favorites along with the chance to win one. This is an international giveaway and you can request and earlier book in the series if you would like to. I’ve selected all of my 5 star reviews for books that released in 2013. Click on the title to read my review.

  World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)These Broken StarsThe Bone SeasonScarlet by Marissa Meyer
World After by Susan Ee, These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman, The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

 In the Shadow of BlackbirdsCrown of MidnightNot a Drop to DrinkThe Burning Sky
In the Shadow of Catbirds by Cat Winters, Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

 The Dream ThievesSiege and Storm
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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My Favorite Debuts So Far 2013

2013 is half over and I’ve read some incredible books and a lot of them have been debuts. I wanted to honor my favorites–the ones already out and the ones I’ve been lucky enough to read that will be available later this year.  (not in any sort of order)

Favorites that are out now:
RebootArclightIn the After
Reboot by Amy Tintera, Arclight by Josin L. McQuien, In the After by Dimitria Lunetta

ItSoBSplinteredSome Quiet Place
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, Splintered by A.G. Howard, Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Favorites that will be out later this year:
All Our YesterdaysThe Bone Season
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (releases September 3rd), The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (releases August 20th)

 What have been your favorite debuts this year so far? Which are you most looking forward to later in the year?

Interview with Cat Winters author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Today I have Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, here on my blog. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is one of the most beautiful yet tragic books I’ve ever read. I know for a fact that the characters and story that you share in your debut novel will never leave me. I am beyond thrilled and honored to have you here.

Thank you, Kristen! I’m pleased to hear the book moved you so much, and I’m excited to be here as your guest.

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsI love that your main character is named after Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. What inspired your Mary Shelley’s story and character?
I’m glad you enjoyed her name. She originally showed up in my head as Mary Shelley Black and refused to be named anything else. I worried a little how readers might respond to me calling her that.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds first started off with the setting. For a long while, I’d been trying to write a book that involved the collision of WWI, the Spanish influenza, and the Spiritualist movement in the fall of 1918. Sometime later, Mary Shelley Black started showing up in other, unrelated book ideas of mine, but I hadn’t yet written her into a manuscript. After I spoke to my agent about what type of novel I wanted to write and how it seemed to be heading into the direction of YA fiction, it struck me that my bright, scientific, logical character-in-progress would be the perfect narrator for a time period that defies logic.

Have you always had an interest in history?
Yes, I’ve always been drawn to historical locales, fashions, and novels. I grew up in a Southern California suburb that was brand new when I was kid, so I think historical sites and stories intrigued me because they were the complete opposite of my own surroundings. My parents also raised me on old movies, from silent films to Hitchcock thrillers, so I’ve been particularly fond of twentieth-century history for as long as I can remember.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds touches on séances and ghosts and their popularity during the 1918’s. Do you personally believe in ghosts? Have you had an encounter?
I’ve heard about enough real-life ghostly encounters to believe they might really exist. My own paranormal experiences are limited to spooky images that appeared in photos I took during a trip to Maine, as well as a frighteningly vivid dream that could be explained away as a fever hallucination. I love visiting haunted historic homes and ghost tours, and I enjoy the tingly sensation that runs down my spine when I’m potentially in the company of spirits. I’m not sure why, but ghosts have fascinated me since childhood.

Photography takes an important role in your novel and you include very accurate and descriptive scenes centered on early 20th century photography methods. Are you a photographer?
Photography is a profession I admire and adore, but I’ve never taken a single photography class myself. I personally love taking pictures and wouldn’t say I’m terrible at it, yet I’m far from being an expert. Therefore, I spent a great deal of time researching early-twentieth-century photography techniques while writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Whenever I couldn’t find an answer on my own, I reached out to historical camera experts, photographers, and photo collectors.

At the beginning of every chapter period photography is featured; giving the reader a firsthand glimpse of what we are reading, such an amazing touch. Can you tell us anything about their inclusion in your book?
That was my idea. I decided to include the period photos for a few reasons. (1) As you already mentioned, photography plays a pivotal role in the plot. (2) Some early readers believed I was writing alternate history and thought I had made up some of the events, such as the 1918 Spanish influenza. I felt compelled to prove that this history actually occurred, and photos seemed an ideal way to do so. (3) I had been struggling to get my historical fiction manuscripts published for well over a decade, but publishers kept saying that historicals are too risky. I really wanted this book to stand out, so I tried to give it a little extra oomph by making it visually haunting.

Will we ever see any of the characters from In the Shadow of Blackbirds appear again in novellas or future novels?
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book from the perspective of Mary Shelley Black’s mother when she was a teen, but I haven’t gone any farther than the initial concept stage. Some readers have asked to see more of Jones and Carlos, two young WWI veterans who make a brief appearance in the novel. I may explore their stories sometime, but at this point I’m not actively writing any companion novels or novellas. The plots would have to be just right for me to want to mess around with the world and characters I’ve already established.

Speaking of future books, The Cure for Dreaming was just announced, congratulations! Can you tell us anything about it?
Thank you! I’m really excited about this second novel, which is scheduled to be released Fall 2014. The Cure for Dreaming takes place in 1900 America and involves a man who pays an up-and-coming young hypnotist to cure his seventeen-year-old daughter of rebellious thoughts. The cure, however, doesn’t go quite as planned.

Now to some more random questions:
What are you presently reading?
I’m focusing on nonfiction at the moment as I continue to work on The Cure for Dreaming. Currently, I’m reading Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town, by Finn J.D. John.

Is there a book or a character you wish you had written?
One of my all-time favorite characters is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I love how he’s wise and just and good, yet he’s struggling to make things work as an older, single dad. Many YA and children’s books are missing parental figures who play an active role in the young protagonists’ lives, and I feel Atticus proves that kids can still go out and have their adventures, even when a loving adult is waiting for them at home.

Cat WintersAbout the author:
Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands.

Her critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Amulet Books), is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who faces WWI, the Spanish influenza, and a ghost.

Cat currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Find her online:
Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook her website

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is available now
The Cure for Dreaming will be released fall 2014

Related Posts:
Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsIn the Shadow of Blackbirds
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books

My Rating:
star

Summary (via Goodreads):
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

The Story:
I learned about the Spanish influenza and World War I in school; reading about the number of people who lost their lives in text books. But, I must admit it never felt real to me- just words that didn’t resonate. While reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds I was able to really grasp the fear and horror of this time period in American history. Winters’ words and descriptions are so powerful I could taste and smell what was being described. I stayed up later than I should reading and then had ghastly nightmares, but it was entirely worth it. It’s one of those rare books that you aren’t the same after you’ve read it. I had to research the Spanish flu and learn more about the time period and the horrible loss of life. While reading I couldn’t help but imagine if this was happening in present day how would things be? I can’t fully grasp the panic and fear. In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn’t a pretty story but it is profound, moving and tragic.

The Characters:
Cat Winters succeeds in creating an atmosphere that pulls you in and enthralls, but her characters are what really drive the novel and wrench your heart. Mary Shelley Black is a strong willed, highly intelligent, scientifically minded 16 year old. She has lost her mother and her father is taken from her for being a traitor. She is flung out of her home and sent to live with her Aunt Eva. Eva has lost her husband and lives alone amidst the horrifying reality of death surrounding her. I think she needs Mary Shelley as much as Mary Shelley needs her.

Lives are not only being lost by the Spanish influenza, soldiers are victims of a raging battle; young boys thrust into trench warfare. Stephen, Mary Shelley’s first love and childhood friend, is the latest victim. Just like Mary Shelley I felt that my time with Stephen was cut horribly short; I mourned his loss with her and looked forward to seeing him in spirit form just as she did. Winters gives depth to all of her characters from Mary Shelley to the people she runs across in her daily life. Winters pulls the reader into the time period, builds scenery, and populates her world with characters that feel real. I understood their motivations, their sadness, their grief.

Final Thoughts:
Quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read. In the Shadow of Blackbirds will always be part of me, I’m not likely to ever forget the story Cat Winters told or the characters she created and made real.