Monday, December 31, 2012

Books I Read In 2012

People are contantly asking me for book recommendations, which I am always happy to give, but then I always add this little speech at the end of our conversation: "And every year on December 31, I post a list of all (or most, that I can remember) of the books I read that year, with a sentence or two on what I thought of them."

So it's December 31, and here's my list. My Top Reads of 2012 are at the bottom.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was a fabulous read, full of magic and mystery and a fun sense of play from the writer. It was also such a rich, fully-realized world that was so enjoyable to delve into. I got completely caught up in the romance and the terrible dilemma between these two main characters. I was sorry when the book was over and I had to stop reading.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis. A worthy follow up to an amazing first novel. I will be eagerly awaited the third and final book of the series, Shades of Earth.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book. It was one of those that is hard to pitch (Cinderella as a cyborg, basically) but it is so well crafted, and the story is so imaginative and compelling. I will definitely be picking up Meyer's next book.

Pure by Julianna Baggott. I have to give Baggott kudos for giving us this wonderful character who just happens to have her hand fused with a baby doll. This was a fascinating read, although as the narrative moved along it became soooo gritty and so creepy that I wouldn't exactly say I enjoyed it. It was a bit much for me, and by the end I was relieved to see it over. Not one I'd recommend for young teens.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano. I was eagerly awaiting this book, as I so enjoyed the first one, and it did not disappoint. I liked the first book slightly better, but this one was definitely a good read.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Another good, solid follow up. I read a lot of sequels this year, I'm realizing.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. This book ROCKED. I kept seeing it featured while I was on tour last winter, and decided to pick it up. So glad I did. I loved the mix of this strong, thoughtful main character and the historical setting. Later in the year I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. LaFevers at an event, and she was lovely and had such good advice about writing. I was inspired. I also picked up a couple of her children's books at said event (The Nathaniel Fludd series), and my son LOVES them. Go Greasle.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I enjoyed this story. It didn't blow my mind the way the other two of the series did (I think Fire remains my favorite of the three), but I liked Bitterblue and I liked the journey she went on in this book. It's a very political book, but it still maintains that super detailed, interesting world from the other novels. Consider me a fan.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Consider me a fan of VR, too! This was yet another awesome sequel. These books totally live up to all the hype. I can't wait to see where it ends.

Destined by Aprilynne Pike. Aw, snif. The last of the Wings series. It was a good one. I really liked how she wrapped up the love triangle-- it felt like what would really happen, in a book about the war between the fairies and the trolls.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. I read this on an airlplane. I started laughing at the blurbs and never really stopped. Gotta love Tina Fey.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Oh, where to begin? I first came across this book (and John Green) when his name was at the top of the New York Times list the same week that Hallowed was on it. We were the only two YA authors on the list, and I thought, who's this guy? Where did he come from? And so, after a while, I read the book. And I laughed. And I cried. And I felt like Augustus and Hazel were friends of mine, and I marvelled at how beautifully written and heartfelt their story was. So I decided to use it for my Young Adult lit class this fall. And in the process of all that I got just a wee obsessed with John Green. But more on that later. . . .

The Selection by Kiera Cass. This book is marketed as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, and it totally is exactly that! Cass did an excellent job with so many of the reality show elements of the book--like the cattiness of the other girls. Oh, the drama. There were some things I didn't love about this story, but it hooked me, so much that I overlooked everything else and stayed up late wanting to see how it would end. What can I say? I watch The Bachelor. . . I want to see who gets the final rose at the end!

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell. I am becoming a huge Saundra Mitchell fan. I loved The Vespertine, but I enjoyed The Springsweet even more, especially for its pioneers settling in the West feel. It was different from any other book I read this year. I also liked how independent it was from the first book of the series, like you could easily read it without reading The Vespertine, but it also connected nicely with the first book. Way to go, Saundra Mitchell! I also loved her story in the Foretold anthology, but more on that farther down the list.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Again with the laughing. I follow Ms. Lawson's blog (The Bloggess) all the way back to the big metal chicken, and it never fails to make me smile. So the book was a no-brainer. The woman is hilarious.

As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender. The final of Katie's trilogy. I have to hand it to her--Alexis faced some really hard decisions in this book, and Katie was so gutsy in where she allowed Alexis to go with the story. I was impressed. And shocked. And sad to see the series over. It was creeptastic.

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky. This book and the picture of a society that is almost completely out of touch with real, human interaction, felt so believable and threatening. Scary.

Revived by Cat Patrick. This was a cool book. Again with the creepy, as this heroine dies and then is "revived" several times.

Endlessly by Kiersten White. I loved this book--I better have loved it, since I blurbed it. The blurb says it all: “There’s not a character in YA fiction that I enjoy reading more than Evie’s. Endessly had me in its clutches from the first hilarious page to the last breathtaking sentence. A fun, heartfelt, and dynamic ending to a marvelous series.” So sad it's over.
Starters by Lissa Price. This book wins an EW award, as in, near the end there was a moment when I went, "EWWWW!" and shuddered. Read it. You'll know what I mean. I thought this was one of the more interesting covers of the year, too. At first I didn't dig the cover so much, but I will admit that it's very different from anything else on the shelf, and once you read the book, the cover makes perfect sense. 

The Talents by Inara Scott. I met Inara Scott in Oregon, where we sat next to each other for an event, and I thought she so cool. So I read her book, which I also thought was so cool.

How To Save A Life by Sarah Zarr. I have lots of mixed feelings about this book. First, I thought it was very well written. The characters were so real and powerful and heartfelt. But (and here's where it gets slightly personal) I am always wary of stories like this, where a young girl finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, and the author treats the subject like, of course, the good and natural right thing to do, in any instance, is for her to keep her baby. As an adopted child, I find this unsettling and mindly insulting. But I thought it was a good book, and a thought-provoking one. Consider my thoughts provoked.

Cool covers!
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. This is an adult book, a Western, that I stumbled over in the line at a grocery store in Oregon, and I was so charmed by its opening pages that I bought it. And I LOVED it-one of my favorite books of the year. It's kind of like Cormac McCarthy with a sharp, amazing sense of humor. I kept reading passages of this to my husband, which I imagine he found tiresome since of course I expected him to laugh and think it was as awesome as I thought it was. But it. was. awesome. It's a dark humor, I will warn you, and not for those who think all books should have rosy endings. (Side note: I was so surprised when, just now, I went to retrieve the picture of the cover and saw this picture on the left. My copy had the picture on the one on the right. Both work, I think, but I love the playfulness of the one on the left. So cool. It's amazing what a good cover can do. . .)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. Such an amazing dystopian retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. One thing that makes a great retelling is a sense of familiarity with the story, of course, but also a sense of newness. I didn't know how this was going to turn out in the end, which I liked. I heart Diana Peterfreund, although I will confess I missed the evil unicorns. Bring back the unicorns!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. I sort of read this on a dare, and it was surprisingly good. Much, much better than the movie. It was a cool idea and Smith really makes you believe it.

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten. This captured the emotions of that first really young love and first heart-wrenching break-up SO well. And yet, Lucy never turned into a mean girl. Kudos to Lucy (and Lynn).

Ten by Gretchen McNeil. Speaking of awesome retellings, I so enjoyed this thriller that is loosely based on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. This book will keep you on your toes. And Gretchen (and her Army of Ten!--best marketing stretegy, ever!)

Sisters Red by Jackson Pierce. Great dula POV in this book. I like the fiesty one-eyed fighter sister, especially.

Taken by Erin Bowman. Got this one as an ARC from my editor and it made me so glad to have an editor who sends me books! This was a cool idea that was very well executed, and it was nice to have the male POV, which I found entirely convincing. I want to know what happens next.

The Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. If you'd asked me a year ago, is it possible to write a good book about two girls stuck in a tower for years, I would have said, "hmmmm," doubtfully.  And then I read this book. Amazing. So tense. I was totally enraptured by the story.

Harbinger by Sarah Wilson Etienne. Creepy futuristic boarding school meets Tarot cards. I dug it.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Everybody was talking about this adult book this year, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. And it does, I think, deserve some fuss. But there was a point in this book where the story turned, in a major way, and from that point on I felt a bit cheated, like the book was all about shock value. I really liked the first half of the book. I was much less interested in the last half. I don't find crazy/ psychopathic characters nearly as interesting as sane ones. I think I may be the only one who didn't love where the book takes the reader.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I read this for my YA Lit class this fall, to get a sense of YA history. This was one of the first books marketed for young adults that was really very "literary" in quality. A gritty and realistic and well thought out book. I can see why people are still talking about it, almost forty years later.
Looking For Alaska by John Green. As I mentioned above, I had no idea who this John Green fellow was until last January. But I loved The Fault In Our Stars so much I decided to use it for my YA lit class. Then, in the process of researching what I was going to say about TFIOS and John Green to my lit class, I decided to read all of his other books. Which I did. I concluded that TFIOS is his best book, although I'd put Looking for Alaska in second place. This is a great book. I also remember seeing this book on the shelf in a bookstore some years ago, and assuming that it was about a guy searching for Alaska. Like, the state.

Will Grayson,Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Yay for my John Green research leading me to discover David Levithan. I loved how the two POVs wove together in this story.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake. These books literally creep me out, probably more than any other YA horror. I liked the first book better but I was oh-so-satisfied with how this book turned out. Yay! and (shudder) Anna scares me.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth. Gotta love a girl who brings the lightning. I was rooting for her all the way.

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda. Sigh. I've missed vampires. This was a great vampire book, a very orginal and riveting telling of this human boy trying to pass as a vampire, who is inadvertantly chosen to participate in one of the last big-game-type "hunts" for humans. I was up late reading this one.
Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction, edited by Carrie Ryan. An anthology. It was so refreshing to read a bunch of short stuff. This was a great read. My faves were the Liani Taylor story, the Saundra Mitchell story, and the Carrie Ryan story, which was ah-may-zing. Made me want to write some short stories!

Every Day by David Levithan. I thought this book was an excellent exercise in thinking about how we know who we are. The main character has no body that is strictly his own, and yet, he still has a sense of himself, and he's able to fall in love, and she's able to fall in love with him, too, even though he looks different to her every day.

Breed by Chase Novak. Whoa. This is a grown-up book, and . . . whoa. I thought it was massively entertaining, and pretty gross, and also a nice commentary on parenting in today's day and age. Another EW book--at times I just had to put it down and grimace. Uck.

Hidden by Sophie Jordan. Sigh, I am so Team Cassian. This was a great finish to the series.

Defiance by C. J. Redwine. I liked the friction and chemistry between the two main characters. They just kept stepping on each other's toes.

Serafina by Rachel Hartman. I really liked this book. The character's voice was so engaging and the stakes were so high for her, I felt like I was leaning forward the whole time I read the book. Plus it has a truly lovely cover. I would recommend to anybody who likes fantasy. This is a keeper.

Promised by Caragh O’ Brien. I really love this series, and was sorry to see it end. That said, it was the least memorable for me of the three books. Not sure why this is . . .

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Ah, more John Green. I was powering through these last two in order to get through them before we stopped talking about John Green in my lit class. This is my least favorite of JG's novel, not because it isn't well written, but because it was a head-book, I thought, instead of being a heart-book.

Paper Towns by John Green. I liked this one. By this time in the John Green research I had watched like 500 videos of John Green (and Hank!) and had developed a bit of a brain crush on him. I like the way he writes, and the way he celebrates intelligence in his characters, and the way he delves into cool little facts like the existence of paper towns. And here, to celebrate Mr. Green, is one of my favorite of the videos: John Green discussing Twilight.

"It's not because we look old. It's because we are old." Ha. Love it.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. My favorite of the three was John Green's. As I said: Brain crush.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. YA fantasies are on the rise, and I enjoyed this one.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. This was probably my favorite of the YA fantasies I read this year, with Serafina in close second. I loved the world that Bardugo build for us with such painterly detail. The characters were life-like and compelling, and the ideas were fresh and well-executed. Incredibly good, one of those books that I was sad to reach the end of, and have to stop reading.

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas. I really liked this one, too. I loved how the main character was plotting how she could kill the obvious love interest for like the first quarter of the book. She's not thinking, oh, he's so cute. She's thinking, I could strangle him by doing this. . . Nice.

Reached by Allie Condie. Another finale! I liked this one loads better than the last one, maybe even better than the first one. The stakes were so high in this book, and I was impressed by how smoothly Condie dealt with the love triangle in a way that felt natural and not forced or sudden. It will be interesting to see what Ally Condie comes up with for her next project.

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak. I'm a little ashamed that I didn't read this masterpiece until this year. An amazing book. I love that it is told from the point of view of Death, as in the Grim Reaper. I loved the use of art and history and bravery and pain.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young. This is the sequel to a book I loved last year: Blood Red Road. I was SOOO excited to read this book. But in the meantime my YA lit class read this book, and they were so angry at Saba's attitude toward her sister and her attitude toward Jack and her attitude in general. I didn't wholly agree with them-- I'd much rather read about a flawed, not-entirely-likeable main character with lots of room for growth and revelation than to read about a character who is clearly a version of the author, minus the flaws, which is a heck of a lot more common-- but when I was reading this book I couldn't help but cringe at how I knew my students were going to hate the questionable decisions that Saba made throughout the book. Anyway, so it lessened my pleasure of reading this novel just a tad. And !!!!!!! I can't believe she did THAT with THAT CHARACTER, Whoa.
Son by Lois Lowry. I will confess that I actually squeed when I saw this book was out. I love me some Lois Lowry. It was, like all the others, a fantastic book.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Speaking of fantastic books. This. Wow. I loved this book so much. I adore the Peter Pan story, and I heart retellings from an unexpected point of view, and I relished every page of this book. It was all about character, this one. Tiger Lily was so powerful and realistic and raw. I was breathless at several moments in the reading of this book. So good. Go read it. Like, now.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is another one that a lot of people are talking about, and I can see why. This one will tear your heart out. But it struck me as I was reading this that it didn't really feel like YA to me. Maybe because the characters felt older at the outset on the book, like in their 20s, and of course there's no rule saying 20 something can't be YA, but they usually are in their teens. Still, regardless of what market the book belongs in, it was very good.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I re-read this in preparation to watch the movie. It was lots different than I remembered it. Maybe because I was around ten years old last time I read it. No one can delve into the crazy details like Tolkien.

Mind Games by Kiersten White. Yay for ARCs! Now, we've already established that I heart Kiersten White. This book is VERY different from the Paranormalcy series, a lot gritter, a lot angrier, but I think it is equally awesome. I loved Fia as a character so much. I also loved that my editor's (who is also Kiersten's editor) dog made a cameo appearance. Coming to shelves on Feb 19!

 Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. What's sad is that when I was gathering the links for this entry I had to scroll down a while before I reached BETWEEN Shades of Grey. Sigh. What is our world coming to? I liked this book, although I had recently read The Book Thief, which is a much better book in many ways. This had a great story, which was really compelling and wrenching at times, but I found myself often wishing that the writing was better. Not that the writing was bad, by any means, but it was very, um . . . plain. And this is a book about a girl who is, in her soul, an artist, but the language and the descriptions are are bare of the kind of lyricism or detail that would have made this book amazing.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. Notice how the word STARS is showing up in a lot of titles lately? I wonder why this is . . . This is an adult dystopian. I really liked it--it was kind of a cross between the movie Contagion and The Road. The language in this book was beautiful--I have several images from this story burned indellibly into my brain.

Gravity by Melissa West. YA Sci-fi, an alien book. I enjoyed this one.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson. Yay, a YA fantasy with a male protagonist. This was one where I suddenly shriked "I knew it!" in the middle of reading. Take that how you will.

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr. Oh, Melissa Marr, how I've missed you. I really liked this book, but I will say that I was greatly unsatisfied at the end. It was one of those where the tension is building and building, and you just know that the big climatic scene is going to be amazing, and then. . . no more pages. It's over. You're going to have to wait for the next book to get to the big climatic scene. *Pines for the next book.* I would really, really like to find out what happens next.

 The Round House by Louise Erdrich. I just finished this book today, and it was amazing. It's an adult book about a 13 year old boy whose mother is brutally attacked--not for the faint of heart or stomach, this one, but really, really good. I've been a big fan of Erdrich for years (my favorite is The Antelope Wife) and this novel was just as poignant and beautiful and compelling as the others. A nice way to round out the year. See what I did there?
And so ends another year, and another 60+ books under my belt. This year I read a bit more adult fiction than usual. Not sure why. And I can't think of a book I genuinely hated (I'm pretty easy to please as far as books go), although there were plenty I started and didn't finish or didn't get to yet.

My Top Choices This Year:

The Fault In Our Stars
The Springsweet
Mind Games
The Sisters Brothers (Adult)
The Book of A Thousand Days
Shadow and Bone
The Book Thief
Tiger Lily
Here's to another year of great books! What books topped your favorites list this year? What are you most looking forward to? What should I read next?
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