Josh’s Books of the Year, 2013

Well the end of the year is upon us and I’ve been asked to reveal which books I will be giving my highly coveted Book of the Year awards to. People have killed for these in the past. Why just yesterday I remembered how last year’s champ put poison into the water supply of Chicago just to prevent their main competition from releasing a book on time. Since this is only the inaugural year none of that actually happened…

When I’m reading Young Adult, as well as New Adult, fiction I am looking for characters who leap off the page, burrow their way into my mind and stay there for eternity. To do this these characters have to be placed in realistic situations according to their environment; meaning that a good book for me has a 16 year old closeted kid acting like a closeted 16 year old kid. The winners of all awards today have done just this, making sure their characters stick in my head for years to come.

The awards for this year are located just below, to be in consideration the book had to have been released in 2013. I’ve narrowed the field down to the top three for 2013, as well as a number of special awards. Before going there I would just like to say a big thank-you to all the authors I have read books from over the past year, especially over the last couple of months on Greedy Bug. To those that haven’t made this list I just want you to know that I still had great pleasure in reading your short stories, novellas and novels and I will always look forward to reading more from your fine selves and all others in the future.

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AND NOW….

drumroll

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JOSH’S TOP 3 FOR 2013

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1) Children of the Knight, Michael J. Bowler

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Released: June 20th, 2013

Children of the KnightFor every iteration of this list when I was developing it Children of the Knight was top each and every time; maybe it was destiny given that I found this book by absolute chance. I had noticed some of the author’s activity on Goodreads when I made my first foray into YA LGBTQ fiction, and then I was offered an opportunity to review this book by Greedy Bug. This was the first time I had been offered a book to review and I was thrilled. Lucky for me it turned out to be… I think my review summed it up pretty well in it’s opening statement.

Children of the Knight is one of those stories where you start reading saying to yourself “that’ll never work” and then 6 hours later you put it down sobbing, having read one of the best young adult books currently in publication.

I still stand by that statement to this day and don’t see my position changing any time soon.

Despite fantasy elements being present in this novel, it still came across as a brilliantly put together piece of work that had strong, fleshed out, realistic characters who will establish a connection with every reader. You’ll want to laugh, cry and share their level of determination in desiring a better world.

Children of the Knight thoroughly deserves top spot on my list. No other book has had a greater impact on my reading, and my life this year, than this masterpiece.

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2) Vivaldi in the Dark, Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Released: December 1st, 2013

vivaldi

To quote from my own review…

The book deals with teen depression tastefully and maturely in a way that’s perfectly relatable to a young adult audience. On top of this is a wonderful and realistic relationship that grows between the two protagonists, allowing both to break from the confines of their dark and self-loathing worlds. I will wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone who reads this genre and even to some who don’t.

I most certainly have recommend this book to many as it deals with depression in probably the best way I have read in a YA/NA book this year. The main characters, Jayden and Darren, are among those who will stick with me for a long time, due to their trials and tribulations over the course of this book.

I first discovered this author as I trawled my way through Smashwords, desperately trying to find something worth reading. His first book, Our Last Summer, drew me in, as it was an excellent tale of the effects abuse can have on teenagers. Naturally after experiencing such a well written novel I was on the lookout for any further work. Vivaldi in the Dark was that work and I wasn’t disappointed in any way whatsoever.

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3) Beneath Angel’s Wings, E. Summers

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: October 31st, 2013

Beneath Angel's Wings

This book came to Greedy Bug when the author contacted us, kindly asking whether we’d read her first YA novel. Being the prolific reader that I am the book fell to me to read and review, and I can say beyond any doubt that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this book. The following excerpt from my review sums up my feelings perfectly.

Beneath Angel’s Wings deals with teen suicide, the struggles of coming out and a young man’s transition to adulthood in a superb 219 pages; it leaves this reader desperate for further tales with these characters. I absolutely adored this book, and I give it my full endorsement as a must read for everyone aged 15 and over. I congratulate the author on their first foray into the world of YA LGBT books, and truly hope that there is more in the future.

This book presents a beautiful portrayal of a young man who, having lost everything, is still able to remain spiritual despite his homosexuality. These two facets of life do not have to be mutually exclusive of one another, and I appreciate books that show this.

“So you think God made you gay to what, test you? That’s dumb, and God isn’t dumb. And even if he is, what’s so bad if you fail that test? People fail all the time. That’s what makes us human. Look at all the unmarried people out there having sex, or married people cheating. The world is full of sinners. Why is your sin, any worse than theirs?”

Beneath Angel’s Wings deserves it’s place on this list because of the impact it made on me as a reader, with characters I truly care about recovering from the lowest points in their lives in order to make a positive impact in others.

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2013 SPECIAL CATEGORY AWARDS

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THE NON-G AWARD

I primarily read books that fall under G in LGBTQ, this award is for the best outside my dominant genre.

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Unreachable, Katie Leone

Publisher: Katie Leone Books

Release Date: 15th November, 2013

18719329

By far the longest book on this list, Unreachable touched me as a novel which, unlike most on this review site, deals with LGBTQ issues from the perspective of a teacher. Despite it’s length it went on to thoroughly educate me about the drama and despair that can surround the lives of those who fall under the T in LGBTQ.

Unreachable is a thoroughly entertaining and emotional story which explores the quite often taboo topics of being transgender and child abuse. The story of Janice and Andrew is a magnificent one which will draw on the heartstrings of our older readers and perk the interest of the younger ones. The book is suitable for  all Young Adult readers and I suggest that you pick up a copy before they run out.

Another trawling find from Smashwords, Unreachable brought me into the world of transgender literature. With it’s excellent characters it was not just a novel focusing on transgender issues, but one that brought to light the excellent, tireless and caring nature teachers can have in our (sometimes) ugly world.

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BEST COVER AWARD

Covers are what draw readers when they even consider picking up a book, this award goes to the best of 2013.

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The Dead Will Rise First, Logan Kain

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: 1st June, 2013

the dead will riseAs it should be with an award of this nature, The Dead Will Rise First is a story that caught my attention by light of it’s excellent cover. At the time I said…

For a self-published novel this has one of the best covers I’ve ever seen. It just really makes you want to pick it up and read the blurb. As such this is a key factor in it’s rating, showing that self-published books can have close to if not exactly the same feel of quality that comes across in those put out by publishing houses.

I stand by my words because I have not come across any other cover this year which has topped this for me.

Simplicity is a word that I would use to describe it. The text is plain and simple leaving the focus of the eye to fall upon the teenager in the centre. The photograph itself  captured the sheer terror and grittiness that exists in the world created in this book and matched it beautifully. It manages to communicate exactly what this book is about in one simple image.

Aside from all this, it was a very good story too, reminding me of the film 28 Days Later. If you like zombies and YA LGBT fiction, then I suggest you give this book a go. Other than the fact the cover is kick-ass of course.

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BEST NEWCOMER AWARD

This award goes to the best new author for 2013.

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Matthew J. Metzger

1) Vivaldi in the Dark

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Release Date: December 1st, 2013

2) Our Last Summer

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Release Date: January 16th, 2013

our last summer

I gave a quick run-down of how I discovered Matthew J. Metzger earlier in this post. That is of course because this new author put out a book that made it into my top three, with his other release still within my top ten.

Mr. Metzger has something in his writing style that just speaks to me and makes me desperate to read on. Over both his books the characters were wonderfully written and by the end of each left me breathless in how they dealt with the issues facing them and grew immensely as a result.

Each book deals with negative issues facing LGBTQ (as well as every other) teenagers, such as abuse in Our Last Summer, and depression in Vivaldi in the Dark. Each book deals with these issues with the gravitas and seriousness they deserve, yet does so in a way that makes them perfectly relateable to all readers. Bringing these issue to light and enabling a better understanding across the community is what helps bring an end to them.

For giving me two excellent books, both in his first year of professional writing, Matthew J. Metzger is the deserved winner of this award. I cannot wait to read his future works.

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THE WAHS AWARD

The What A Huge Shock Award. Awarded to the biggest surprise book/s of the year.

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All for the Game (Books 1 & 2), Nora Sakavic

Publisher: Self- Published (1 & 2)

Release Dates: January 15, 2013/July 10, 2013

the foxhole courtI was looking for something to read, this book was free, I read it, and it has made it into my 2013 awards because, after reading The Foxhole Court, my immediate reaction was:

THIS IS THE BEST FREE BOOK I HAVE EVER READ!!!!!!

The two releases in the All for the Game series (thus far) are the only New Adult additions to this list, and the content of them definitely places them in this newer genre. These books are dark, my review for The Foxhole Court summed it up succinctly.

The Foxhole Court is an odd book. A very, very, very, VERY odd book. I originally found this through an Amazon recommendation, and since it was free on their site, I thought I’d give it a go. All in all it is a very hard book to define; there’s action, drama, abuse, bullying, some M/M themes and, to top it all off, a very violent sport in Exy. The world in which it is set is very dark, with organised crime being very well known, at least to those examined in this story.

The author has developed the sport of Exy, and then managed to build a story around this brutal sport and the shadowy figures controlling it.

By reading the play by play actions included in the sport scenes you can see how finely tuned the author is with her invented sport. As important as history in the fantasy genre, sports writing has to stay true to the rules, morals and history of their respective sports, and the Foxhole Court is a fine example of this.

The Raven King, book two, was even better than the first, building on the already excellent themes and turning them into even better versions of themselves. Character development, while being good in the first volume, was even greater here, with shocking, yet believable, tales of abuse, drug use, bulling and trauma being examined through a variety of characters.

Each book was very close to being in my top three for this year and they are both definitely in the top ten. For this reason I couldn’t give the WAHS award to anyone other than Nora Sakavic, for giving me the hugest surprise hit of 2013.

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Conclusion

Again I would like to thank every author who made this list, as well as everyone not on it, for providing me with an abundance of excellent stories to read every day. I love reading, I love reviewing, and I hope to be presenting these awards again this time next year, where the choices will be even more difficult with a full year of reading under my belt. Here’s to 2014!!!



13 responses to “Josh’s Books of the Year, 2013”

  1. Kazza says:

    Great choices, Josh. You have been a powerhouse reader this year in the short time you have been with us. The rest of us Greedy Buggians shall post our condensed list later 🙂

  2. Cindi says:

    What a great list of books! I have wanted to read some of these since I read your initial reviews.

    To agree with Kazza, you have been a huge powerhouse reader in the short time you have been with us. Thank you!

  3. Wow, Josh, I’m humbled by your extraordinarily kind words. Thanks so much!

  4. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for including Beneath Angel’s Wings on your list, Josh. I can’t even find the words to properly express just how much I appreciate this honor. You really made my year!

  5. Josh, thank you so much for both reviews, the interview, and now your kind words here. I never imagined I’d get such an enthusiastic reception to my works, especially with their subjects, and your approval (and above all *honest* approval in not being afraid to point out what you don’t like too!) has been absolutely phenomenal. This list not only made my morning, but quite likely is going to carry a smile for the next several months!

    Matt

  6. Katie Leone says:

    WOW!! Am I late to the party or what. I am honored to be mentioned as a top book of 2013. I am glad that you liked my work and hope to bring other titles to light. I didn’t know you got the book off of Smashwords, which is making me reconsider putting the rest of my titles back.

    By the way, it isn’t that I haven’t been following your reviews, but I see them on Goodreads 🙂 I’ll be back more often.

  7. […] of The Devil’s Trill Sonata, sequel to the second placed novel, Vivaldi in the Dark, in my Books of 2013. The author was also the winner of my newcomer award last year, and it is an understatement to say […]

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