The Best (and Worst) Books I Read in 2013

January 9th, 2014 at 6:06 am
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The Best (and Worst) Books I Read in 2013

You’re looking at a corner of my 2014 vision board. And as you can see, I love to read! One of my visions for the year is to continue reading regularly, everything from non-fiction to fiction. Since I was young, fiction has been my fave, so I would say the majority of what I read falls into that category. But non-fiction makes its way in every few weeks.

So I thought I’d share with you some of the best and worst books that I’ve read in the past year. I’m in no way intending to be negative here, but a couple books were pretty awful, so I’m not going to candy coat! These opinions are my honest ones.

Here we go, in no particular order.

The Rose Series

The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose 

(by Jennifer Donnelly)

I read this series over the course of a few weeks in August when I was dealing with my back injury. I loved these books because they were long and the plot was fast paced and thick with mystery, romance, and history.

That said, there was quite a bit of profanity, innuendo, and sensuality that I felt could have been left out. It’s really a shame because the character development is amazing as are the relationships forged throughout the saga. So I guess I’m a mixed bag on this series.

Bottom line: Read it if you can take the good with the bad. If you don’t like books with profanity and intense romance, leave this one on the shelf.


The Kitchen House

(by Kathleen Grissom)

This book was worth the hype! I love historical fiction and a good tearjerker. But parts of this book were super sad, almost borderline depressing. I felt like it contributed to the integrity of the story and was a true representation of life during those times, so to me the sadness was a good thing that drove home some excellent themes.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this one for historical fiction readers who also have a tender side.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

(by John Green)

Unlike The Kitchen House, I did not think this book lived up to the hype. Seriously, with over 7,600 reviews on Amazon and 4.5 out of 5 stars, I thought for sure there would be something to love here. But I could not get into it. I honestly had to look up the description again to refresh my memory because it made so little of an impression on me.

Bottom line: I’m not jumping out of my chair for this one. I hear they’re making a movie out of it, which I probably won’t go to see although I’m curious to know what they’ll do with this story.

Power Thoughts

Power Thoughts

(by Joyce Meyer)

I can’t say enough great stuff about this book. It motivated me at a time when I was rather down in the dumps (again, back injury…) and was a quick and easy read. Joyce Meyer has a way of writing effectively but very simply, so I think even children will get these concepts. She outlines 12 “power thoughts” and advises working on one every month for a year.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to strengthen your mind and give yourself the upper hand when it comes to fighting daily battles, read this book.

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers

(by Vanessa Diffenbaugh)

Fair warning: I got about two-thirds of the way through this one and quit. I truly have no idea what has made this book so popular. When I told my sister I was having trouble getting through it (we share similar tastes in books), she said she’d just finished it and told me it wasn’t worth my time. Hence the quitting two-thirds through.

I was so bored reading this. I can barely remember the plot or the character’s names without looking them up. Some reviewers on Amazon described it as “enchanting and compelling,” or, “a roller coaster ride I won’t forget!” Are we seriously talking about the same book? It was more like a lazy river ride that I did forget!

Bottom line: The Language of Flowers simply didn’t speak my language, I guess. I thought the writing style was unimpressive. And while the whole meaning of the flowers business was neat at first, I felt like it was overdone after a few chapters. Thumbs down from me.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

(by Erin Morgenstern)

You know those movies where you watch it one night sort of mesmerized and wake up the next morning thinking, how dumb was that? That’s what this book reminded me of. Again, with a 4-star rating on Amazon and nearly 3,000 reviews, I was planning on being impressed. I wasn’t.

Granted, there were some pretty amazing passages of prose in this book. I give the writer a pat on the back for making a strange world come alive off the page. But the actual storyline itself was just weird. I couldn’t get into it but forced myself to finish it, since I already had bailed on The Language of Flowers.

Bottom line: I’ve never liked fairs and circuses in person, and I guess I don’t like them in books either.

The Atonement Child

The Atonement Child

(by Francine Rivers)

I read this book years ago, but I forgot most of it so I gave it a read again this fall. I’m such a Francine Rivers fan! Although this isn’t my favorite book of hers, I still enjoyed it for the most part. Her characters are always very well developed, with hearts that seem so human and real.

Bottom line: It’s a little sappy in spots, but overall pretty touching with wonderful themes and morals. (If you read this and like it, you must read Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion series and Redeeming Love.)


So there you have it. Chime in with your comments and recommendations, please! I’m working on building my reading list for 2014 and would love your suggestions, fiction or non. Thanks!




  1. Love your board! Can’t help but notice a Westie dog on there! If you are thinking about one, please consider checking out the WI Westie Rescue.

  2. Thank you Hallie! I am heading out shortly and look forward to finding a Francine Rivers book at my library!
    I’ve also enjoyed Phillipa Gregory; she writes historical fiction.

  3. Brianna Tittel said on January 9, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I’m currently reading a short memoir called The Boy on the Wooden Box. It’s about a young Polish boy and his family who made the infamous Schindler’s list during WWII. Though written for young adults, it’s a moving story for anyone. I’ve never been a huge fan of memoirs, but this one reads more like historical fiction and is a very compelling, short read.

  4. I did like The Language of Flowers. Two other favorites from last year: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and especially Calling Invisible Women. I want to tell readers (who might be reading these comments) about World Book Night where publishers print up special editions of a variety of books and readers sign up to be book givers to give them out free to low or non-readers to spread the love of reading. The deadline to sign up for this year is Jan 10th – one more day. But if you miss that, keep it in mind for next year. It is SO FUN to give away free books.

  5. I’m not much of a reader (other than the internet :), but my mom gave me a copy of The Kitchen House this past year and I LOVED it! Usually when I do read an actual book I prefer non fiction to fiction. I just ordered 3 highly rated books from Amazon and should receive them today. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, and The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt (yes, I’m in a “searching for happiness” mode at this time in my life ;) I’m hoping these books live up to the reviews!

  6. Chery Petersen said on January 10, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Yes I agree the book by Joyce Meyers is encouraging and recommended. Another great read some of my best BOOK LOVERS suggested is called The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate. I can’t wait to get back to the story. Profound insight and wisdom and encouragement.

  7. Yeah, Hallie, Rivers has some intense books out there-she does not mince around tough topics!
    Chery, I just went and checked out The Prayer Box at our library-sounds challenging, the topic!
    And Hallie, if you enjoy series, have you tried the Yadda Yadda Prayer Group by Neta Jackson? These multiracial gals get it down-real living, real praise til they get the victory over the junk in life-set in Chicago.

  8. Hi Hallie,
    We seem to have similar tastes in books as I, too, did not like The Night Circus, but loved The Kitchen House. I’m sorry you did not enjoy The Language of Flowers…I found it so interesting and truly enjoyed it. Thank you for the Joyce Meyers recommendation…definitely need some uplifting in my life now. Since you mentioned your love of historical fiction, I highly recommend 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Not at all scary! One of my top ten favorite books of all time.

  9. My all time favorite book series is the Mitford series by Jan Karon. I am not normally one who reads fiction, but I absolutely loved these books. The are light, entertaining and endearing. She wrote the Father Tim series to follow – only two books – and I enjoyed those just as much. I recommend them highly.

  10. Thank you, Hallie for an (as always) interesting post. With your love of historical fiction, together with your passion for healing, I wondered whether you have ever read “The Physician” by Noah Gordon – on of my all-time faves. As for spiritual upliftment, I loved “Mister God, This Is Anna” by Fynn. PS – is a great site for checking reviews and storing your history of books read or “to-read”, etc. Happy reading :)

  11. OK, so I saw someone mention the Yada Yada Prayer Group series….LOVE these books!! I have laughed and cried through them. It takes a realistic look at the lives of many different families and characters from different backgrounds. Definitely opened me up to change the way I see people, and also inspired me. (p.s. The first one is a little hard to get into at first, because it’s introducing so many characters, but you’ll get familiar with them, so keep reading!) You can also get the party editions, which has different recipes and party ideas in the back! :)

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