Every year, Oprah Winfrey puts together a list of her favorite things–aptly called “Oprah’s Favorite Things”–that’s meant as a gift guide for everyone. Since this blog is more about books, music, movies, and television rather than ‘things’ (also since the holidays are over,) I thought it might be fun to discuss my favorite media from the past 12 months. As a year, 2013 was pretty good in terms of the big blockbuster films, latest installments of franchises, new television series, music discovery, and delving into new book series.
This year alone I tackled The Maze Runner trilogy, the Percy Jackson series, and A Song of Ice and Fire. According to Spotify, I have 443 tracks on my 2013 playlist, as opposed to 220 songs on the 2012 mix. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch every film I wanted to in theaters, but I saw a majority of them after they were released on DVD. However, I did watch almost every new pilot that aired this year, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Now it’s time to take a look back at the books, music, movies, and TV shows that I discovered in 2013–all of which I highly recommend.
This year was the first year I joined in on the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I reached my goal of 35 books a few months ago so I increased it to 45 and I’m nearly there (the past few weeks have been crazy.) Check out my full year in books for 2013.
Top 4 Books
Easily the best chick lit book I read this year was Gemma Burgess’s A Girl Like You. After reading it this summer, I have been scouring Goodreads and the internet for another chick lit book just as good. I suppose I should start with Burgess’s Brooklyn Girls series or her other standalone novel The Dating Detox. At least I’ll have something to read in 2014!
This year was another huge year for the dystopian trilogies. The second book in Kiera Cass’s series, The Elite, was released, as well as the accompanying novella, The Prince. Set up like a reality series similar to The Bachelor, The Selection is equal parts romance, coming-of-age story, and thrilling dystopian sci-fi. I’m excited for the second novella, The Guard, as well as the final installment, The One, to be released in 2014.
Another dystopian young adult series that captured my attention this year was the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I think I read through Cinder and the second book, Scarlet, as well the two novellas, Glitches and The Queen’s Army, in a few short weeks. The first five chapters of the third installment, Cress, were released on Cyber Monday (since it’s a series about cyborgs and robots–get it?) but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. As soon as I complete my reading challenge, I certainly will.
I’ve mentioned a couple times before that Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series was a huge part of my teen years, but when she began a new series featuring Georgia’s younger cousin, Tallulah Casey, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it because I was much older. However, I read both books–Withering Tights and A Midsummer Tights Dream–in about two weeks. I’m still trying to get my hands on this year’s release, The Taming of the Tights, because I can’t wait to read it.
Spotify offered a new feature this year: any user can check out their year in review for 2013 to see their most played artists, tracks, and albums. There weren’t a lot of surprises on mine. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis along with Timeflies were among my top listened to artists.
Top 4 Albums
Midnight Memories – One Direction
The biggest not-surprise of my Spotify year in review was that One Direction was my most listened to artist of the year. Between their release of Take Me Home late in 2012 as well as their newest album, Midnight Memories, I’ve had many of their songs playing on repeat for most of the year. What can I say, I’ll never grow out of my love for boy bands.
Paradise Valley – John Mayer
I was never much of a John Mayer fan, but when his newest album came out one of my friends listened to it on repeat for weeks–and he insisted I at least give it a try. So I did, and I was hooked. Paradise Valley is a great album, and I especially love the opening track, “Wildfire,” as well as his duet with Katy Perry, “Who You Love.”
Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy
When Fall Out Boy announced their return (about a week after Pete Wentz was still denying rumors that they had reunited) with the album Save Rock and Roll, the teenaged fan of pop punk in me awoke and screamed in excitement. Though some collaborations were lackluster, on the whole, Save Rock and Roll was easily one of my favorite albums of the year–and not just because of the nostalgia factor.
Clarity – Zedd
Although I’m not a huge fan of music–especially electronica–without lyrics, Zedd really grew on me this year. The solo songs are great when I need to focus, but the collaborations are my favorite tracks. He teams up with Foxes! on “Clarity,” Matthew Koma on “Spectrum,” and Ryan Tedder on “Lost At Sea.” These songs really make the album.
Top 10 Tracks
It’s difficult for me to find a full album from an artist that I enjoy so it makes sense that I can’t help but love certain singles more than entire albums. These are the tracks that made it onto almost every playlist I created this year.
“You Know You Like It” AlunaGeorge
I’m not sure how I came across this song–on an 8tracks mix or Songza playlist–but I can’t get enough of it. AlunaGeorge’s cover of Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” was also featured on a lot of my mixes this year.
“Latch” Disclosure ft. Sam Smith
Though I’m not a huge fan of Disclosure’s full album Settle, this collaboration with Sam Smith is absolutely flawless. Listening to “Latch” has led to many solo dance parties throughout 2013.
“Primetime” Janelle Monáe ft. Miguel
Since it’s a bit on the slower side than the music I’m usually drawn to, it took me a while to warm up to “Primetime.” Once I did, though, I could easily listen to this song on repeat all day long.
“Dead Man Walking” Jon Bellion
It’s been a long time since a song made me want to laugh and sing along at the same time, but that’s exactly how I felt when I first heard “Dead Man Walking.” Equal parts acoustic guitar and witty humor makes this one of my favorite songs.
“Lying Together” KATO & Dae Zhen
I rarely take music recommendations from random people I follow on Twitter, but I was in a musical slump when someone recommended KATO & Dae Zhen’s Polaroids EP so I figured I could give it a shot. The first song, “Lying Together,” became my favorite song of the year and I’ll probably continue listening to it in 2014.
“Heartbreaker” MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend
Another song that I discovered on a Songza playlist, “Heartbreaker” became one of my favorite dance tracks of the year after the first time I listened to it. There’s something about a good electronic beat mixed with a soulful voice that really gets me–especially if I can dance to it.
“Sweater Weather” The Neighbourhood
I had seen “Sweater Weather” show up on my Tumblr dashboard a few times before I actually listened to it, but once I had, I was hooked. The song became my anthem for late summer and early autumn–as I’m sure it did for many other people.
“Miss Jackson” Panic! At The Disco ft. Lolo
I’m still a little angry that I didn’t know Panic! At The Disco had released a new album until a month or two after it came out. Once I heard about it, I gave it a listen and “Miss Jackson” is easily my favorite song off the album.
“Timber” Pitbull ft. Ke$ha
Since I love dancing, Ke$ha, and vague references to country music, how could I not love “Timber”? It’s a great song for solo dance parties or for working out.
“Help Me Close My Eyes” Those Dancing Days
One of my favorite aspects of MTV’s Teen Wolf is the music. When I was rewatching the first season earlier in 2013, I heard “Help Me Close My Eyes” in one of the scenes. I liked the song so much that I listened to the whole album by Those Dancing Days and I couldn’t stop listening to it.
I wasn’t as impressed with 2013 as I have been in other years with the film releases. It was a poor year for young adult novels adapted into movies. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was the biggest disappointment in particular. But some films stood out.
Top 4 Movies
After the disaster that was the first Hunger Games film, I wasn’t too excited for Catching Fire. But then I heard my friends raving about it, as well as pretty much everyone on Tumblr, so I decided to check it out. It seemed the change of directors between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire was a good decision, because the second installment of the series is a perfect example of how to adapt a young adult novel to film. I can’t wait for it to be released on DVD so I can watch it over and over and over again.
Every so often a movie comes along that you love so much you want to watch it again immediately after it ends. For me, that movie this year was The Way Way Back. When awkward 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on vacation with his family, he feels like he doesn’t fit in. So he finds a friend in Owen (Sam Rockwell) the manager of the Water Wizz water park. It’s a coming-of-age film that I really, really enjoyed.
Out of the two Marvel releases this year, I certainly enjoyed Thor: The Dark World more than Iron Man 3–which might have a lot to do with my love of Loki as well as the very brief Captain America cameo. Aside from that, The Dark World was a fun addition to the franchise that was a huge improvement upon the first Thor film. Plus, it made me even more excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which I didn’t even think was possible.
It was hard to choose between Monsters University and Frozen as my final favorite film of the year, but Monsters University won out (though it was really close.) Monsters University was a fantastic sequel to one of my favorite Pixar films of all time: Monsters, Inc. Plus, I didn’t feel so weird watching Monsters University since it’s an animated movie that takes place in college.
For me, 2013 in television was much better than movies. Perhaps it’s just that I prefer to watch episodes of TV shows rather than full-length films, or maybe it’s because the plot and characters can be a little more developed. Either way, I’ve definitely decided I’m more of a TV person than a movie person.
Top 4 TV Shows
It wasn’t too hard to choose my favorite TV show of the year. Way back in January, I predicted that E4’s My Mad Fat Diary would be the best show of the year and now that the year is over, I stand by that statement. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Rae and all her friends within the first episode. After watching the first season of the show, it was safe to say I was hooked. Since finishing my first viewing of the series, I’ve rewatched the whole season a few more times–and I’ll probably watch it again before the second season starts in February 2014. It’s so good I’ve tried to convince everyone in my life to watch it (and succeeded with a few people.)
The only other series that came close to My Mad Fat Diary this year was BBC America’s Orphan Black. When I first saw the trailer for this new series, I thought it looked like a really cool sci-fi show. After watching the first season, I realized the science fiction aspect isn’t even the best part of Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany stars in the series as Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena, as well as a few other recurring clones. In addition to Maslany, the other stars of the series Jordan Gavaris and Dylan Bruce make the show an enjoyable and thrilling ride.
As a journalist, I tend to dislike the portrayal of journalists in TV shows and movies. Journalists are usually the bad guys (like in Die Hard, every Law & Order incarnation, and House of Cards) who care more about themselves than the good of others–which is not always true. So as a rule, I didn’t like The Newsroom. But after I watched a few episodes of the newest season with my family, I somehow got hooked. I went back and watched the whole series from the beginning. Although some things still don’t make much sense (like why Don is always in the control room during Will’s show even though he’s not EP anymore) and I could do without a lot of the relationship drama (I still don’t care for Maggie and Jim,) I do actually enjoy The Newsroom–sometimes.
As far as the September premieres go, there were a lot of great new series like Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, and The Tomorrow People. However, I have to say Reign is my favorite new show of the fall. I was prepared to dislike it–a show about Mary, Queen of Scots? That doesn’t sound promising–but the series surprised me. The writing is fantastic, the acting is amazing, the characters are well-developed with a female-dominant main cast, and the costumes and music really come together to make Reign feel both historic and fresh at the same time. Though I’m not sure how true it actually stays to history, it’s a television show, not a program on The History Channel so I think we can give the show some leeway.