The Wenches' Top Ten of 2013

We all know how it is at the end of a year. Relief that it's over, and some apprehension and hope concerning the next one. Mostly, we're just grateful we survived with most of our sanity intact. 

Thankfully, the Wenches have had a (mostly) great 2013 when it comes to what we've been reading. At the dawn of a new year, we thought it was apt that we'd reminisce about some of the best books we've read and loved this past year. You know, the ones we fell in love with almost immediately. The ones we might have reread almost obsessively. The ones we would recommend to everyone we know. So we all got together and put them in a list for you. 

Click through to see which books the Wenches picked as their favorite reads of 2013!

(There will be SPOILERS!)

House Rules and Biting Bad by Chloe Neill

As you might be aware, the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill is a huge favorite around these parts. So, it should come as no surprise that there is at least one of her books on here. There were two (well three) CLV releases this year. We loved them both so much that we couldn't pick one to leave off of this list. So, House Rules and Biting Bad are sharing a spot on our Top Ten this year. Both of these books have what I love in a UF/PNR series, the heroine and her partner/spouse/significant other in a stable relationship and working together to solve this installment's problem. Ethan and Merit are happily committed to each other and they remain that way throughout the course of both books, with only one major argument. House Rules, which Wench Zee and Head Wench Barb reviewed, was a masterpiece. It had everything I had hoped for in a book. The GP issue was resolved in spectacular fashion, Merit and Ethan overcame some struggles to firmly cement their relationship, there was TONS of Jonah and, WE LEARNED WHAT JEFF SHIFTS INTO!! I've been waiting for this since Book 1. And, then in Biting Bad (review here), we got more amazing Methan scenes, and we saw Cadogan finding their place in the new world of being Rogues. And, our story line was classic CLV vampires against an unseen foe. There was some beautifully written tragedy in this book as well. Biting Bad also set up a great arc for at least the next book, Wild Things. I can't wait! In fact, after going back to skim over these books to write this, I want to re-read the whole series again! Thank you, Ms. Neill, for giving us not one, but two stellar releases this year. Oh! And an Honorable Mention goes to CLV short story, High Stakes (review by Wench Zee and Head Wench Barb here) for giving us a glimpse into the minds and hearts of Luc and Lindsey. I hope we hear more from them! ~~Anne

Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones

Fifth Grave Past the Light (Wench Merit's review here) is the latest installment in the thoroughly delightful Charley Davidson series, which many Wenches fell in love with in 2013 after Wench Natalie's recommendation. A refreshing change of pace, Charley's wit, quirkiness, and audacity charmed me. She has a unique set of kick-ass skills (she's a grim reaper), and a scorching-hot sometimes-boyfriend, Reyes Farrow, the ultimate alpha bad boy (and runner up in the Vampire Book Club's 2013 Alpha Showdown). In Fifth Grave, Charley suddenly finds herself sharing her apartment with the tormented ghosts of dead women. They need her to find their murderer before he kills again, maybe even kills someone near and dear to her. She also has a new neighbor, Reyes himself, and must decide once and for all whether he's one of the bad guys or the best thing that's ever happened to her. We get lots of hilarious interaction between Charley and her BFF Cookie, entertaining appearances by the usual colorful assortment of side characters, and--finally--intriguing glimpses beneath the surface of the two main characters. I really enjoyed getting to know Charley and Reyes better, seeing what makes them tick and how they developed their deliciously skewed, darkly humorous perspectives on life. In previous books, I'd become a little frustrated with the pace of their relationship, but book five kicks that into high gear!! The romance and action kept me glued to the pages, and like all the previous books, I found it laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish. Be warned this is not a book to read quietly, so don't try it in a library! All in all, it was a fabulously fun read that delivered a huge reward for having stuck with the series when I wasn't sure exactly where it was headed. I anxiously await book 6 in 2014. ~~Kathi

Home for the Holidays by Jeaniene Frost

I had been meaning to read Home for the Holidays for the past few months, but the gentle (hehe) persuasion (and by "gentle persuasion" she means I badgered her for months!) of Head Wench Barb FINALLY made me pick it up. And I have to say, THANK YOU for making me read this. I have read MANY novellas and short stories in my time, but after this (and Reckoning), the award for the absolute BEST short story/novella in UF/PNR goes to Jeaniene Frost.  Usually, readers don't really look forward to novellas and short stories in this genre because there just isn't enough meat in the story. Not so with Ms. Frost. I was immersed into the wonderful Night Huntress world and completely invested in the story 100 percent. Bones was just... un-fucking-real, as always... and Cat, someone I have had a hard time sympathizing with, was also great in it, so much so, that I did not have a single complaint about her. And Ian! Oh my god... Ian. I refuse to give away spoilers for this AMAZING story, but needless to say, read it. It has all the heart, the adventure, the angst, the wonder, of the best of Ms. Frost's work. My heart was in my throat at some points, I was actually at the edge of my seat while reading this wonderful book. May she write many, many more stories about many more characters. ~~Zee

Shock & Awe and Touch & Geaux by Abigail Roux

I couldn't decide.  Touch & Geaux (Wench Amanda's review here) ripped my heart out.  It then proceeded to do a little dance on it, shattering it into pieces.  Once it was done, the blender came out, and took care of that, too.  I sobbed at Sturm's death in -Dragons of Winter Night- when I was in my teens.  I've been rocked by books since, but I have never once so much as nearly cried at a book... until Touch & Geaux.  I sobbed.  It was wrenching, and painful, and still fun, hopeful, and touching.  It sounds like a horror show, but honestly, after putting in six books ahead of this, we were well overdue for The Big Angst.  And oh my word, did Abi deliver.  We finally get to see Zane come into his own, and I'm already twitching waiting for March to arrive to read Ball & Chain.  In the meantime, Shock & Awe (Wench Care's review here) has been a great tide-over.  It was spawned by fandom, and it worked.  It worked so very well.  It's all new angles on known characters, watching their relationship change, grow, and continuing onward into life as a whole.  The addition of Bait & Switch was incredible, and while Shock & Awe was spectacular, giddying, and utterly fantastic, adding in Bait & Switch just pushed it over the top.  Both releases this year have been wonderful, leading to my utter failure to meet my reading goal for 2013 - because I read this series FIVE TIMES this year instead of reading all kinds of other books.  I REGRET NOTHING!! ~~Care

Ever After by Kim Harrison

I completely loved Ever After (Wench Angela's series review here). It is easily in my top two books within the whole series. The demon story line remains as riveting as ever. In this installment Rachel must battle the most powerful demon in the Ever After and it's a battle that required Rachel to rely on her friends. Yes, that includes Trent and my personal favourite, Al. The story threads that remain are woven together into a very satisfactory conclusion. My opinions of a few characters have definitely changed as the series has progressed and I love nothing better than a seemingly bad character suddenly being shown in shades of grey. You can feel that, with only two more books in The Hollows series to go, the action is picking up pace to reach whatever ending Kim Harrison has in mind. She has me caught. Hook, line and sinker. Can't wait for The Undead Pool (Rachel Morgan #12) in February 2014.~~Angela

Silver Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells

Three books ago we met vampire assassin Sabina Kane, executing her grandmother's orders without asking questions. For 3 books (which Head Wench Barb has reviewed), we accompany her through her struggles to survive, to find out who she really is and even why she is. Sabina Kane fights and wins battles, finds shocking revelations about herself, helps her friends and family and even finds love. Good enough, huh? Not so easy, as Silver Tongued Devil will not let you (and Sabina) sit and relax. Here we go for emotional conflicts. I love that this book is more about inner struggles than political or power battles. Sabina is half vampire and half mage; she has to accept both halves in order to go on, which is not an easy task. Adam, her mage boyfriend, has a conflict with Sabina's vampire side. Sabina has conflicts with her sister Maisie. Sabina's friends have their own battles and heartbreaks. Of course there is a lot of drama, suspense and real fights, while the evil devil is here to conquer the world and Sabina and company fight back. But really this story ascended to the next level for the inner turmoil and growth of character. One Honorable Mention: Giguhl, Sabina’s demon-minion and best friend. One of the best sidekicks in the books I read so far. Last, thumbs up to Jaye Wells, for giving Sabina black stripes in her red hair, it seems like almost every UF heroine has red hair, doesn't it? ~~Merit

Dirty by Megan Hart

I have gone on at length (here and here) about Megan Hart's work. Especially this one. Dirty is probably my favorite book of hers. And there are so many reasons why. I loved the characters, their struggles, their hopes, their frustrations, and more importantly, I GOT them. I felt for Elle. I wanted her to be happy. Even when I was shaking my head at things she said or did, I wanted her to find her happily ever after. And that has always been the beauty of Ms. Hart's work I think... making you understand things from a perspective you would never have had the ability to understand otherwise. 

You will laugh, cry, sigh, blush, squirm, frown, smile, and in the end, be left emotionally drained. Because you went through the emotional wringer, courtesy of Megan Hart. ~~Zee

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Game of Thrones is my pick for the Top Ten of 2013. Of course, this is not a new book or new series. It's only new to me. I have friends who have read the books and loved them. Some friends watch the show. (Amanda's Stark Family Fangirl Friday here) These books have been on my TBR list for ages, but I just couldn't find the right time to tackle them since they are SO long! I could not put them off any longer after hearing the angst associated with the TV show's Season 3, Red Wedding episode. I dove into A Game of Thrones and discovered that the ASOIAF series is truly an epic series. It has anything you could hope for: action, intrigue, witty dialogue, layered characters, and some seriously shocking moments. Yes, these books are long, but they are worth every moment.~~Amanda

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost

Well, there are a few reasons Twice Tempted (review by Wenches Beta and Zee here) made it to the Wenches' Best of 2013 list. First, we loved Once Burned and couldn't wait for a sequel. Second, we love Vlad and will read anything that has his character in it. Third, we absolutely loved Layla. She was a breath of fresh air; not afraid to be true to herself. She's not ashamed of her life, emotions, wants and needs. She knows her worth and she's not backing down. Even when faced with Vlad the Impaler, Layla stands her ground and makes demands. 

Furthermore, the Wenches also love the fact that this short series (only three books) gave us appearances of other beloved characters like Cat, Bones, Mencheres, Kira and so on. We can't wait for the third book, even though it means the end. ~~Shau

Wrong Ways Down by Stacia Kane

This one came out of nowhere for me. I knew that I loved Downside, I knew that Stacia Kane could weave an incredible tale with a setting as real as my own hometown, and I knew that Terrible was one of  the fiercest, scariest, yet most honorable, swoon-worthy heroes I have ever met. But seeing Terrible through Chess's eyes was one thing, while seeing the world through Terrible's was something completely different. His love for Chess is simply magnificent, and I understand even better exactly how brutal Terrible's world is and his place in it. Chess only sees Terrible's strength, so I didn't realize the depth of his insecurities, but that knocked me flat, too. His sense of justice and honor, his acceptance of the brutality of his world, and the shining light he sees in Chess, all left me stunned. If you aren't reading Downside, you absolutely should be--make it the top of your 2014 TBR--and if you haven't read Wrong Ways Down yet, It is a masterpiece. (and if you need a little nudge, here's my review.) ~~Barb

Honorable Mention: Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler

If there is one thing I've learned from the PNR genre, it's when a book installment ends in a cliffhanger, do not lose your shit! Tempest's Fury ended on a doozy: Jane's mentor had fallen, her boyfriend had been turned into an evil dragon, and Jane's plan to save the world exploded in her face. Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler is the final chapter in the Jane True series, and it did not disappoint! It began with Jane struggling to deal with the aftermath of some terrible blows in the last book. Her beloved friends and family rallied around her, and I realized how much I had to come to love Jane and the rest of those offbeat characters. Nicole Peeler has given each one of them interesting, endearing qualities. This book really demonstrates how Jane has grown throughout the series. She felt very much alone and isolated in the first book, and now she is surrounded by friends and allies who are there to support her. When some people try to push her around, she takes control and pushes back. She embraces her role as Champion, since she can't leave it up to Anyan or Blondie to save the day. Jane kicks ass - both literally and figuratively. Natch! ~~Donna

There they are, Saucy Readers. Our Best of 2013. Did we include your favorites? Did we miss anything fantastic that should go on our 2014 TBR? Share your thoughts below!


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