Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story

Kristen’s 13 Favorite Books of 2013

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I  love reading, and in 2013, I read 52 books. I picked out some of my favorites, thirteen to be exact, to share with you, along with my favorite book of the year. Most of the books are best sellers or well known in their respective genres, but hopefully you find a new book to read.

My Favorite Book of 2013

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors these days and I absolutely loved this book. The story revolves around Laurel Nicholson’s investigation into her mother’s past to solve a murder her mother covered up when Laurel was a teenager. Morton switches point of view and time period throughout the book in an effortless manner. The characters are well-developed, the language is beautiful, and the intrigue is high as the story dives into themes of family, relationships, loss, and love.

General Fiction Picks

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron –  Running the Rift is a story of a boy chasing his dream to become an Olympic runner within the horrifying backdrop of the Rwandan genocide in the early 1990’s. The story follows Jean Patrick, the protagonist, from his childhood into his young adult years. Benaron gives this character a great voice and provides a great picture into Rwanda leading up to the horrors of the genocide. The story was predictable, but I was so invested in the characters, I didn’t care. I’ve seen a little bit of criticism for this book because of its simplicity in writing style, but I don’t see that as a negative quality. Benaron wrote a beautiful and tragic story which also educates us about a terrible point in history for Rwanda and the world.
The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker – I picked up The Emperor’s Edge as my indie book for March and it was a great pick (especially since it’s free in the kindle store). The Emperor’s Edge is a mix of fantasy, steampunk and the thriller genres. Amaranthe Lokdon is a strong female lead who puts together a team of criminals to save the emperor from an assassination scheme. Buroker laces humor through her characters and I found myself chuckling often. The story moves along well and the novel is very well written. This year, I also read and enjoyed the second book in the series Dark Currents. Lindsay Buroker is a great indie author, well worth checking out.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo – The Snowman is my favorite in the Harry Hole crime series by Jo Nesbo.  If you haven’t read any in the series, you can pick up the Snowman and not miss too much. The story follows alcoholic detective Harry Hole in his search to find a serial killer nicknamed the Snowman. Nesbo’s writing puts you into the action and the descriptions are vivid, yet horrifying at times. About halfway through, you think the plot is wrapping up, but you know better since there are 200 pages left. Nesbo does an excellent job of giving you hints of what’s to come, yet keeps the twists and turns coming throughout the novel.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans is a novel which stirs up every emotion. Tom and Isabel are married and live on Janus Rock, a solitary small island off the coast of Australia. Tom’s responsibility is to man the lighthouse. Isabel is a young woman eager to have children, but suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth. After the stillbirth, a boat washes on shore with a dead man and a living baby. They decide to keep the baby and raise the child as their own amidst doubts and possible future consequences. The ensuing story is beautiful, yet tragic. Stedman’s sentences are carefully constructed and I couldn’t stop reading the last 100 pages, despite the sad story. The Light Between Oceans is a great novel. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers – Dave Eggers makes you think about the world we live in and the future with his book The Circle. The book is a work of fiction, but it easy to see a parallel future in our world of technology and social media. Essentially, Eggers wants us to think about the important of privacy in this new world of technology. The novel follows Mae, a young woman who gets a job in customer experience (or service) at The Circle thanks to her friend Annie. As the novel progresses, Mae gets further involved in the Circle and ultimately decides transparency is the only way. I though the writing was good, but the characters could have used more depth. I didn’t like Mae as the novel progressed, but that didn’t stop me from reading. The Circle makes you think and its definitely worth the read.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Khaled Hosseini is a great storyteller. I have no doubt about his ability to create intricate characters and beautiful sentences. But, it’s impossible for me to not compare this book with his earlier works. The Kite Runner is one of my all time favorites (and I recently read it again – holds up). And the Mountains Echoed is a solid book, but not on the level of The Kite Runner. My main complaint is Hosseini spent time with many different characters who are loosely tied together, but I wish he spent more time with the main characters – Pari and Abdullah. I wanted more about them. But overall, it’s another great book about life, set against the backdrop of Afghanistan and tough situations.

Young Adult Picks

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy NelsonThe Sky is Everywhere follows Lennie and her struggle to move forward after the sudden death of her older sister. In the midst of her grief, Lennie finds herself falling for one boy, but also connected closely with another boy, her sister’s boyfriend. Each chapter starts with a poem written by Lennie and these poems add great substance to the book. The writing style is fun and clever and fits with the first person point of view. Here’s an example that made me laugh – “Handfuls of bosom pouring out a minuscule black dress that I’m going to wear in broad daylight to band practice.” More importantly, Nelson tackles grief and death, two tough subjects in a touching and realistic way. I absolutely loved this book.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – The Fault in Our Stars is an absolutely stunning contemporary young adult novel. The novel follows the story of Hazel, a teenager living with terminal stage cancer. She meets a boy Augustus who changes her life. Yes, the novel is sad at times, but the characters are smart and beautiful. Green grapples with issues of mortality, life, and love in a way that is meaningful and triumphant. I recommend this book to readers of all ages.


Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas –  I love books with a strong female protagonist. The protagonist, Celeana, is an assassin who is in a competition to win her way to freedom. Along the way, she encounters evil forces, makes a few friends, and falls in love. The book is predictable at times, but such fun to read. The competition and protagonist reminded me of hunger games, but in a fantasy world. I intend to pick up the sequel soon!

Oldies but Goodies

Dracula by Bram Stoker – I’m ashamed to say this was the first time I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With the popularity of vampires in pop culture, I wanted to go back to a classic vampire tale. And this book is a classic. I loved the narration of this story- through letters and journals from the main characters. The story is frightening in the best way. If you missed this book somewhere along the way, pick it up.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – After seeing the first Hobbit movie, I finally picked up Tolkien’s Hobbit. I have no idea why it took me so long to read this book. The Hobbit is a fun adventure story. Tolkien mixes the perfect amount of description and exposition. I loved the book and look forward to picking up the LOTR trilogy again in the near future. 

A Ring of Endless Light –  As one of my favorite books growing up, I was anxious to read A Ring of Endless Light as an adult. L’Engle drew me in once again to this story of life, love, and loss. Her writing is so precise and the descriptions are magnificent. The story tugs on your heart as Vicky copes with growing up and dealing with loss in her life with a backdrop of dolphins, but the story doesn’t feel dated, simply timeless. L’Engle adds a bit of science fiction and fantasy, but it is perfect and adds depth to the story. A Ring of Endless Light is one of the best YA books I’ve read.

What were your favorite books you read in 2013?

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