Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Normally I write out reasons why I’m including each book on this list, but I’ve reviewed these books and mentioned them on so many lists that I feel like it’s not really necessary at this point. But believe me, creating this list was HARD. At the end of every year I feel like I haven’t read enough books, nor enough books that really wowed me. Do any of you feel that way at this time of year? I guess I’m not reading to be wowed, but I certainly like discovering new favorites. The books on this list are here because they’ve stayed with me this year (characters, plot, writing style, twists, etc.). I’d love to know which books are you favorites this year!

My favorite books of 2013 in no particular order…

1. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (My review)

2. Winger by Andrew Smith (My review)

3. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (My review)

4. Golden by Jessi Kirby (My review)

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (My review)

6. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler (My review)

7. I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach (My review)

8. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (My review)

9. The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine (My review)

10. Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (My review)

My favorite backlist titles read in 2013 (I couldn’t help but cheat)…

1. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (My review)

2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (My review)

3. Recovery Road by Blake Nelson

4. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This post is actually difficult to write because despite my list, many of the books I read this year are written by authors I’ve read before. I consider that a good thing because it means former debut authors and new-to-me authors have continued to impress me. I’d love to know which authors are on your list! Hopefully we’ll share some similarities. Hopefully I’ll discover even more authors!

Top Debut Authors:

Hilary T. Smith–Wild Awake has engaging characters and beautiful writing. I hope she writes another book soon!

Rainbow Rowell–Eleanor & Park is Rowell’s debut YA release which rocked my world. Seriously. I LOVE that book.

Hollis Seamon–Somebody Up There Hates You surprised me in a great way. It was fun to read despite being a “cancer” book.

Robin Constantine–As soon as I finished reading The Promise of Amazing I wanted to read another one of Robin Constantine’s books. It’s too bad this hasn’t even released yet because that means I have to wait even LONGER for her next book.

Jessica Verdi–She tackles a big issue in My Life After Now without getting preachy. Plus, it’s an issue not enough found in YA. Win, win.

Aaron Hartzler–Rapture Practice is a great example of YA memoir while also being a fabulous and relevant story.

K.A. Barson–45 Pounds is a fun book that many of my readers will relate to. Plus, K.A. Barson is a Michigan author!

Top New-to-Me Authors:

Benjamin Alire Saenz–I can’t begin to explain how beautiful Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is.

Jo Knowles–So technically Jo Knowles isn’t new to me since I read Lessons From a Dead Girl a few years ago. I’m including her on this list because I read three of her other books this year and loved all of them. I feel like I truly discovered her this year.

Amy Reed–I loved reading Over You and now want to read everything Amy Reed writes.

Review: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Rapture PracticeTitle: Rapture Practice

Author: Aaron Hartzler

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 9th, 2013

Interest: Memoir / LGBT

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Aaron Hartzler grew up gay in a home where he was taught that at any moment Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye, and scoop his whole family up to Heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that each day might be his last one on planet Earth. He couldn’t wait to blastoff and join Jesus in the sky!

But as he turns sixteen, Aaron finds himself more and more attached to his life on Earth, and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want the Rapture to happen, just yet; not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Before long, Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or at the piano playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers the best friends aren’t always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming of age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family who loves him. It’s a story about losing your faith, finding your place, and learning your very own truth–which is always stranger than fiction.

If more memoirs were written like Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, I would read more memoirs. His debut novel is humorous, heartfelt, and honest.

Something I like best about Aaron’s story is that it exposed me to a world I’m not very familiar with. I did have a friend in elementary school who was a very strict Baptist, but even her lifestyle wasn’t as extreme as Aaron’s. I grew up in a religious home, so I understand and appreciate the importance of it, but reading about Aaron’s family and their beliefs was eye-opening and also frustrating. I can’t imagine getting into an argument with my dad about whether or not I wore socks to church. My parents were strict about the music I listened to, mostly when I was younger, but I was never made to feel guilty or ashamed about it. Aaron Hartzler does a wonderful job helping the reader understand where his parents are coming from, but he also does a fantastic job making the reader feel for him. I can’t tell you how many times his parents made me angry while reading this memoir. I will admit, however, that I sometimes felt bad for being angry at them since I know they felt they were doing what’s right.

I hope some of my students will read Rapture Practice. First, it will most likely be an eye-opening experience for them just as it was for me. Second, I want them to read more memoirs and this is a great book to get them started and help them understand what a memoir is. Third, Aaron Hartzler’s story will probably resonate with many of them. Even if they aren’t living in a strict religious household, I’m confident many of them are questioning religion, rebelling against their parents, figuring out where they  fit in the world, etc. They’ll likely find a piece of themselves in this book.

I do, however, wish Rapture Practice included more about Aaron realizing that he’s gay. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to read his memoir. Unfortunately, this part of his life is brought up, but it’s not as fleshed out as I wanted. I’m assuming his real revelation happened after this book ends, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’d love it if he chose to write a second memoir which goes into more detail about his self-discovery and how that affected his life and family. I’d read another one of Aaron Hartzler’s books regardless of what it’s about.

I know our reading lists are long, but I recommend taking the time to read Rapture Practice. It’s easy and enjoyable to read; it’s written very well. Aaron Hartzler is an author I’ll be looking out for in the future.

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