Books 2013: A Page-Turning Escape Review
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This time of year is generally all about the movies. As the year closes and a new year begins, critics are busy weighing in on the best and worst movies of the year (see my take) while obsessively assessing all of the latest award wins and nominations. Now that the award season insanity is dying down, though—as Hollywood prepares for Oscar night on March third—it’s the perfect time to take a break from movies and think about books instead.

As has generally been the case since I was a very young girl, I spent 2013 with my nose buried in a book (or, if I happened to be traveling to a movie theater or driving around town, trying to get my daughter to fall asleep, listening to an audiobook), filling every possible spare minute with whodunits and family dramas and technological thrillers. I then weighed in on my discoveries both here on N&W.com and on my weekly radio show, Shelf Discovery (you can check out my audio reviews at ShelfDiscovery.org). And now that 2013 is well past over, it’s once again time for me to weigh in on the year’s best reads. So if you’re waiting out the latest polar vortex, here are 10 great options for passing the time.

  
 

Reality Ends Here by Alison Gaylin: 2013 was a great year for smart young adult novels—a refreshing change of pace from the moody teen romances that we’ve seen in recent years. In this clever YA e-book, author Alison Gaylin takes on reality TV with her look inside the life of a fictional reality TV teen—and the result is a somewhat run-of-the-mill mystery that’s given an entertaining boost, thanks to its pop culture touches.


Black Sheep by C. J. Lyons: In her second Caitlyn Tierney novel, author C. J. Lyons transforms troubled FBI agent Tierney from intriguing background character to flawed but fascinating heroine, setting the stage for a suspenseful and character-driven series of crime thrillers.


Love Rehab by Jo Piazza: Throughout my teens and twenties, I met all kinds of love addicts—and that’s what makes Love Rehab such a wickedly funny read. Though it has a predictable romantic subplot or two, it’s still thoughtful and observant and altogether enjoyable. If you happen to know a love addict, it could also do double-duty as self-help literature.


Family Pictures by Jane Green: This summer, I spent a fair amount of time in the middle of my own little family drama, fighting to get my toddler to take her afternoon nap. But I’ll admit that I wasn’t always that upset about having to strap her into her car seat to get her to doze off. After all, it meant a trip through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, a leisurely drive through the park, and a little bit of time with an audiobook—like this one. Much like Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, this family drama offers an absorbing exploration of the way in which different characters handle adversity.


Always Watching by Chevy Stevens: Since the release of her haunting 2010 debut, Still Missing, I’ve been a fan of Chevy Stevens’s thoughtful psychological thrillers. Her third engrossing novel is sometimes oppressively heavy, but it’s the kind of story that will stick with you long after you finish reading.


Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones: The Charley Davidson paranormal thriller series is one that I’ve chosen to enjoy solely in its audio versions—because the quirky characters and entertaining storylines tend to make mundane tasks like navigating traffic on the way to the grocery store much more enjoyable. The series has gone through its share of ups and downs—but, in the fifth installment, author Darynda Jones gets back to basics. She trims back the tangled storylines and shifts her focus back to the paranormal aspects of the series. And the result is one of her best books yet.


Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando: They’re called “growing pains” for a reason. Making the transition from child to adult isn’t easy—and, in this coming-of-age young adult novel, authors Zarr and Altebrando capture the excitement and anxiety of that transition with heart and a little bit of humor, too.


Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin: Though the idea behind this work of chick lit isn’t exactly new or original, author Allie Larkin makes it feel fresh and creative by populating the story with lifelike characters and giving it just a hint of mystery. If you’ve read chick lit before (or if you’ve watched a romantic comedy), you’ll most likely know how it’ll come together in the end, but Larkin puts the usual clichés together in a way that will keep you engaged and entertained from beginning to end.


Countdown City by Ben H. Winters: The end is approaching for the characters in Ben H. Winters’s The Last Policeman trilogy. And with this second book in the series, Winters ratchets up the suspense while offering thoughtful perspectives on the coming apocalypse. This is one pre-apocalyptic series that’s well worth checking out.


Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri: Once upon a time, Maggie Barbieri was the author of humorous cozy mysteries. But with this twisted thriller, she takes a haunting step in a new direction. Though her sense of humor still shines through from time to time, this chilling whodunit is anything but cozy.

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