Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

My best books of 2013 (and other distinctions)

Here are my favorite books from 2013. To make the list, I had to have read the book for the first time in 2013 so that old favorites don't clog the top spots. (I'll post a complete list of the books I read in 2013 plus some "fun" stats in a few days.)

Hostage Three (Nick Lake). If you, like me, expected this to be a half-hearted girl-falls-in-love-with-pirate-archetype-boy (and the boy not only adheres to the archetype but is also an ACTUAL pirate), then you, like me, will be oh so pleasantly surprised. I continue to be amazed at the depth and sincerity of this book. It's not for everyone, but it was definitely for me. Beautiful and moving.

A Short Stay in Hell (Steven L. Peck). This book has stayed with me. I have to keep it under control or else it will take over my mind and freak me right the heck out all over again.

Catch Me If You Can (Frank W. Abagnale). So. Much. Fun.

The Romanovs: The Final Chapter (Robert K. Massie). This might be this year's "made just for me" book - Russia + the Romanovs + mystery + cool DNA stuff = book heaven.

The Secret Race (Tyler Hamilton). Another "this book was written just for me" candidate. I loved this book's joyful, non-bitter tone, even as it tackled the tough issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the world of professional cycling.

Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein). Female besties during WW2 done right.

For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund)Sometimes, you just need to read a book with an exquisite ache of sadness running through it. This book - a sci-fi re-telling of Jane Austen's Persuasion - has it.

Now for some fun distinctions.

Most unexpectedly good book: World After (it is the sequel to Angelfall, last year's winner in this category). I was disappointed by almost every sequel I read this year, so I was pleasantly surprised to read World After and find that I really liked it!

Most unexpectedly bad book: Death Comes to Pemberley. A murder mystery set in Jane Austen's world sounds sooooo delicious. But it was dumb.

Longest book: Guests of the Ayatollah. Five Days at Memorial was a close second.

Shortest book: A Short Stay in Hell.

Most-read book: 2013 marked my second reading of The Princes in the Tower and Guests of the Ayatollah, both of which I read for the first time in 2009. I also re-read The Scarlet Pimpernel. I guess I didn't go for old favorites so much this year.

Best bad book: The House at Tyneford. I hated this book with a certain glee, the intensity of which (both the hate and the glee) surprised me. It was an audiobook, so it was always just kind of there whenever my podcasts ran out. It became a fun game to just full-on hate this book as I listened to it and discovered new stupid things about it.

Worst good book: The Raven Boys. I seriously did not know whether to give this book zero stars or five stars. Hundreds of pages of good, solid reading followed by one stinker of a non-ending. Grr.

Worst book I didn't finish: Prodigy (the sequel to Legend). I don't even like Legend anymore as a result. Prodigy's lameness is so intense that it is actually retroactive.

Worst book I DID finish: The Elite. Sigh.

Worst cover: Hostage Three. And check it out, it actually has TWO worst covers! Both of these are awful.

Also, The Girl of Fire and Thorns deserves more than this abomination:

Best cover: For Darkness Shows the Stars. So pretty.

Books that remind me the most of morning sickness: Forever on the Mountain and Out of Captivity. It was hard to read about other people suffering in extreme conditions (stuck on Mt. McKinley in the first; kidnapped by FARC in the second) when I was struggling to just cope with normal everyday life.

Sequels that I hated (or at least was disappointed by): The Elite, The Fitz-Osbornes in Exile, Boundless, Finale, The Bitter Kingdom, Prodigy.

Books in which tarot cards play a major role: The Night CircusThe Raven Boys.

Number of books featuring a main character named "Mia" that I read in a row: 3 (Night Road, Lark, Winterborne).

Books whose titles I can't keep straight in my mind: Shadow and Bone, Speaking From Among the Bones, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Book of Blood and Shadow, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (though I didn't even read that last one).

Books in which a mother character struggles with serious mental illness AND in which a main character is given a nickname ending in "-bear": Hostage Three, World After.

Books featuring the line, "We are all made of stardust": Hostage Three, After Eden.

Books where a girl is assigned a secret protector who ends up falling in love with her: Lark, Winterborne, The Girl of Fire and ThornsShadowfell, and probably a dozen others that I've forgotten about already.

A book that reminded me of The Master and Margarita, but without all the heavy religious stuff: The Night Circus.

A book that reminded me of The Master and Margarita, but WITH all the heavy religious stuff: A Short Stay in Hell.

Books that would have been better if the romance element had been removed: After Eden, The Naturals.

Books written by beautiful young female authors who graduated from Yale: Shadow and Bone, The Naturals, For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Books where during a tense/traumatic moment, a character hears screaming, and then realizes it is coming from him/herself: pretty much every single one, seriously. Is this the new "in the distance, a dog barked"?

The youngest bureaucrat

December 27th, outsourced