RT Editors' Best of 2013: Regina's Picks

This blog post is part of a series that the RT Editors will be taking part in during the month of December. Please check back all month long for each editor's installment!


With 2013 winding down, the RT editors thought December would be a good time to reflect on what each of us read this year and which books stuck with us long after we finished them. While this year's RT Awards winners won't be announced until our convention in May, we've decided to share our personal favorites of 2013, in no particular order. Today RT  Senior Editor/Reviews Coordinator Regina Small shares her favorites of this past year:


Tear You Apart
by Megan Hart

Elisabeth Amblin's marriage is fine. Satisfactory. Really okay. But when she meets photographer Will at a gallery show, Elisabeth is immediately drawn to him. As she and Will begin a passionate affair, Elisabeth starts to wonder if it's possible to have more than just the comfort and security her marriage has offered. Hart's prose is so poetic and Elisabeth's voice so authentic, readers will feel torn apart right alongside her. Erotica has rarely been this beautiful — or this devastating.




by Karina Cooper

I don't know this for certain, but Karina Cooper is probably trying to kill me. After I finished Tarnished, the first in Cooper's steampunk series, I was absolutely DYING to read book two. As everyone around me knew. Because I would not shut up about it. Gilded picks up after the events of the first book, following debutante/bounty hunter Cherry St. Croix as she attempts to pursue her scientific and academic interests while also attending society events — and working off her debt to the Karakesh Veil, the shadowy overseers of London's underground. Cooper's worldbuilding continues to amaze me — it's fully realized and totally absorbing. But it's Gilded's ending (no spoilers here!) that truly impresses: it redefines "unexpected yet inevitable." I still haven't gotten over it. 



by Rainbow Rowell

I've been on the Internet for a long time. When I signed up for my first email account in 1996 (at the tender age of none-of-your-business), I did what any young woman would do — I joined every X-Files mailing list and visited the alt.tv.xfiles newsgroup on a regular basis. On the Internet, I connected with people who loved this offbeat sci-fi show as much as I did. We discussed our pet theories, exchanged fan art and yes, even fanfiction, about our intrepid heroes, Mulder and Scully. In short: I was and am a fangirl. So it's no surprise that I fell in love with Cath, the lead of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Struggling with life as a college freshman and her recent estrangement from her twin sister, Cath seeks solace in her favorite pasttime: writing fanfic about Simon Snow (a Harry Potter-esque wizard). But coming into her own as an adult may require Cath to step away from the computer and engage more with the people around her. Rowell's treatment of Internet culture and fandom is deeply tender, sweet and funny — fangirls and fanboys everywhere will be touched. 



The Shining Girls
by Lauren Beukes

If you were a science fiction fan in 2011 (you were, right?), you probably heard quite a bit about Beukes' Zoo City, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award that year. It was my introduction to Beukes and it was every bit as engaging as I'd hoped. So when I heard she was crossing genres to try her hand at suspense, I was intrigued. And finding out the book was about a time-traveling serial killer? Well, that's irresistible. But while I may have expected a well-written potboiler, The Shining Girls is so much more. It's a story about how women who "shine" — trailblazers, activists, women who radiate strength — are constantly under threat, from exploitation and from real physical violence. It's also a survivor's story, focusing on shining heroine Kirby. Beukes gave her fans an amazing gift in 2013: a thriller with a conscience.



London Falling
by Paul Cornell

Whenever I talk about Paul Cornell, it's best to imagine me as the hearts-as-eyes emoji (heart-as-eyes emoji). With London Falling, which I gave a Top Pick! in April 2013, he's proven that he can write chilling dark fantasy. After an encounter with a mysterious old woman, an investigative team finds they have a strange new power: they can see all the ghosts and demons inhabiting London. Cornell does a brilliant job of exploring both literal and figurative demons tormenting his team as they work to catch an otherworldly killer. It's too soon to say whether book two, The Severed Streets, will live up to its predecessor, but I can't wait to find out.



Without A Summer
by Mary Robinette Kowal

Confession: While I enjoyed Kowal's previous books in her Glamourist Histories series — Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass — I wasn't a true believer in the complex metaphysics of "glamour." But after reading Without a Summer? Call me a convert. Kowal's world is getting richer and more developed with every entry and this third installment brought in a historical — and political — element that gave the tale depth. Set against the backdrop of the strangely cold summer of 1816, Kowal draws her leads, Jane and Vincent, into class politics. And I loved the reappearance of Melody, Jane's vivacious sister, who provides an excellent foil to the more grounded Jane. 



Hyperbole and a Half
by Allie Brosh

Since kicking off her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, in 2009, Allie Brosh has drawn a loyal — and huge — following of fans. Chronicling her childhood adventures, the ongoing challenge of being an adult and her struggle with depression, Brosh became a master of a unique hybrid of memoir: half narrative storytelling and half webcomic. The book, Hyperbole and Half, which hit shelves in late October, collects some of her most memorable blog entries as well as a host of new stories. Brosh pulls off that mysterious trick of being simultaneously hilarious (you will laugh out loud) and deeply moving. Her two-part anecdote about losing (and regaining) the will to live brought me to tears. 



The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination 
ed. by John Joseph Adams

Anthologies are often inherently hit-and-miss for me, generally containing only a few stories I truly love — so I was blown away by the brilliance of The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. It is no exaggeration to say that each of the 17 stories compiled by editor John Joseph Adams is fantastic. Just as the title implies, the stories all center around diabolical geniuses. Austin Grossman's "Professor Incognito Apologizes" — which features an antihero who mashes up over-the-top villainy with couples therapy-speak as he confronts his girlfriend — had me in stitches. This phenomenal collection also boasts heavy-hitters like Seanan McGuire, Marjorie M. Liu, Diana Gabaldon, Harry Turtledove and more. 



Written in Red
by Anne Bishop

When senior reviewer Jill Smith gave a Top Pick! Gold to this first in Bishop's Others series, I knew I had to check it out. There's a tried-and-true formula for crafting urban fantasy heroines: make her a steely, leather jacket-wearing badass who can dispatch a gang of baddies without breaking a sweat. But Bishop doesn't play by those rules. Blood prophet Meg Corbyn is tough — but hers is a quiet, understated strength. On the run from those who would exploit her gift, Meg ends up finding protection in the Courtyard, a place where humans are typically regarded as food. But even surrounded by would-be predators, Meg is a sensitive soul and it's ultimately this sensitivity to their needs that endears her to the Courtyard's residents — and readers.



The Best of All Possible Worlds
by Karen Lord

I don't often have crushes on science fiction heroes. But Karen Lord's Dllenahkh is a notable exception — the stoic Sadiri fellow bears such a strong resemblance to my ultimate SF crush, Spock, that I couldn't help but fall for him. And when Lord paired him with spirited, bright Grace Delarua, I was hooked. But it's not just a well-written love story. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a stirring tale of a quest to revive a decimated race of people — and features one of the few SF casts that is made up almost entirely of people of color. With an abundance of humor and heart, Lord delivered one of my favorite science fiction books of this — or any — year.



Do you and Regina share some favorite books of the year? Which reads did you love in 2013? Let us know in the comments, and check back all month long for more editors' picks!