Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Superlative debuts this year

Today I'm sharing my favorite debut reads this year (authors who published their first book in 2012) for the YA Superlative Blogfest hosted by Katy Upperman. I loved the categories she gave us for today's part of the blogfest. 

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (or, the plot you wish you'd thought of yourself)

Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff.  The premise hooked me: Japanese-flavored steampunk with wicked chainsaw katanas and furious mythical creatures. The plot is so layered in with the world-building, and yet so simply brilliant, that I can see why there's so much buzz about this book. 

Is it YA? The main character is sixteen years old, so I *think* it's YA. But it has view points from much older adults, too. Also, it's much denser than most YA's (but I don't mean that in a negative way. Maybe "richer" would be a better word than denser?)

Most Formidable World (or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit)

The Unsea in Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. This world is based on tsarist Russia, which had such a deep rift between the nobility and peasantry it eventually caused a bloodthirsty revolution. But Shadow and Bone adds even more angsty divisions among people (the Grisha vs. the non-gifted). And then it adds this horrific place called the Unsea. Is that a cool name or what? Within its dark borders, there be terrible, terrible monsters, the volcra, who feed on humans. But there's something about the Unsea even worse than that, too. 

Most Wanderlust-Inducing (or the setting you'd happily run off to)

Scarlet, by A.G. Guaghn. Because who wouldn't want to hang out with Robin Hood and his merry men for a few days? Sure, the hygiene leaves a little to be desired in medieval England, and the local sheriff is a real downer. But aside from that (and as long as I had access to chain mail for safety)... I'd go back in time to meet Robin's gang in a heartbeat. 

Loveliest Prose

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. A YA author who is not afraid to use big scholastic-aptitude-test-worthy words and long sentences. And she puts them together beautifully along with her grand new vision of dragons who can turn themselves into humans. 

Bonus: this book not only has a lovely way with words, but it also has quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. It has the funniest cast-of-charaters descriptions in its appendix. And speaking of the cast of characters, they are all freakishly and adorably memorable like the cast from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. 

Best First Line

I'm totally cheating because I just came across a first line that hooked me without knowing a single thing about this book. The problem is, it's not a 2012 debut - it's a 2013 debut. 

"What do you want your name to be this time?"

Is the first line from The Rules of Disappearing, by Ashley Elston, about a girl in a witness protection program. Bummed that I have to wait until May to read this one.

Most Dynamic Main Character

Eva/Addie from What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang. Because the premise of this book is about two souls living in one body. A dual personality makes for a pretty dynamic main character, indeed. 

Most Jaw-Dropping Ending

A Spy Like Me, by Laura Pauling. I would so LOVE to tell you about this ending but it would a big spoiler. However, I can tell you about the first chapter, in which Saavy takes revenge on a boy who tricks her into a date just to get information out on her. Saavy ties him up and strips him down to his underwear, and leaves him next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris! One of the funniest first chapters I have ever read and the jaw-dropping ending is - ah - well - darn. I really can't even give a hint without giving too much a way.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role

The Darkling in Shadow and Bone. Oh my trembling knees, the Darkling! The ultimate love/hate character. But I already mentioned Shadow and Bone so I'll also give you a close runner-up: Matthew from the Lost Girl, by Sangu Mandanna. He was an intensely powerful and scary antagonist. I couldn't believe how much I hated him and how scared I was for Eva because of him. The last 1/3 of this book was so intense I think I was twitching from nervous tics while reading it.

Best Use of Theme

Never Gone, by Laurel Garver.  This book runs several themes as it tackles sensitive subjects such as grief, addiction, presumptions and misunderstandings, and religion. It's all woven together beautifully and without making any big dramatic statements. This book, toward its end, could also qualify for the "loveliest prose" category. 

So there you have it, 8 wonderful 2012 books by debut authors I highly recommend, and one bonus for 2013. 

And as a parting shot, I can't believe I haven't mentioned the Hobbit on my blog yet, and the movie has been out almost a whole week already!  The movie wasn't perfect but there were many, many things I loved about it. Here in a few weeks (when I don't have to worry so much about spoilers) I'm going to post my top ten favorite things about the Hobbit movie! (And then I'll have to do a top ten on the Lord of the Rings movies, too). I could never do just a top ten for the books - that would be more like my top 100, ha ha.

One last thought. The recent school shootings are still heavily on my mind. Keeping the families of the victims in prayer, especially during the holiday season which will be anything but a holiday for them. I was driving when I heard the news on the radio of the shootings, and I had to pull over because I was sobbing so hard.  I still vividly remember where I was when I saw the World Trade towers fall, and I'm afraid I'll always remember where I was with these Sandy Hook elementary school shootings, too. Where you when you heard what happened?


  1. I hope to catch up on the Hobbit this weekend! Can't wait!!!

    Oooh I do like that first opening line from The Rules....

    Take care

  2. Oh, Wow! You've read some amazing reads this year. I have Seraphina; just haven't had time to read it yet. AND I so want Shadow and Bone!

  3. What a great list of books. I immediately went on over to Goodreads so I could a couple to my TBR list. (Thanks for the heads up on that 2013 read. It sounds awesome!) Also, you're the second person today mentioning how good SERAPHINA was. I have it on my Kindle, so I really have no excuse not to read it right away. :)

  4. Wow! I've not read any of these. Shadow and Bone is one of the next books on my list, and now I need to add a bunch more. We should invent a way to stop everything going on around us so we can read without worry for other responsibilities.

  5. Fantastic choices, Margo! I'm so glad you joined in today. :) I'm dying to read SERAPHINA and SHADOW AND BONE... I've been seeing both of those books all over the blogfest this week!

  6. That's a great list. I think the school shootings are weighing heavily on everyone's mind. Terrible way to end the year.

  7. That is a great first line! I'll definitely be looking out for that one!

    I was home when I heard the news--just back from a festive outing with my MIL. It was very jarring. I think what I'll remember, though, is when the names were released and stories started to trickle out about how heroic the teachers were. That was when I cried.

  8. I'm always amazed how much you read in a year. Good for you!!! These ones look fantastic. I can't wait to check them out, Especially the cheater 2013 debut. :o) Like you, I'm just still off my game after hearing about Sandy Hook. Those families and that community are constantly in my prayers.

    Thanks for sharing your best ofs! <3

  9. I picked Eva/Addie too! They were so great. Really looking forward to reading The Lost Girl!

  10. Oooh, you have a lot of books I haven't heard of. I'll need to check these out!

  11. Thanks for these wonderful book recommendations!! I'm looking forward to seeing The Hobbit, too. I recently heard it's being made into a trilogy. Very cool! I'm interested to see what they'll include from Tolkien's notes and appendices.

  12. These look really good! I actually havent heard of any of them. I'll have to check them out.

  13. Oh, you've put a few new books on my TBR list! The Rules for Disappearing intrigues; I must look out for it in 2013! I've been meaning to read The Lost Girl, but I'm more interested now that I've seen your comments about the antagonist. Anyone mentioned in the same breath as the Darkling (oh, swoon) is worth a looksie. :)

    And YAY for Seraphina love! It was one of my favorites this year for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The worldbuilding is fantastic, and I love the colorful and quirky cast of characters - all so distinct! This was a fabulous book.

  14. Lots of books here that I haven't read! I love it!

    I remember the day and how I learned about the Columbine shootings, and I remember my situation (on the west coast) hearing about 9/11. I hate that I have events like this engrained in my brain. I'm not a parent, which causes this Sandy Hook tragedy to speak to so many in a sad and scary way, but hearing about this in my classroom on Friday causes an emotional reaction for me, still.

  15. Wow, I haven't heard of quite a few of the titles you picked!

    I can't help but cry every time I hear about Sandy Hook on the news. I was actually getting ready to leave for work and I saw something mentioned on Twitter but didn't have a chance to look into it until much later. I saw more info on FB and Twitter and my boss called me and asked if I had heard and we both spent most of the day trying to find out information. Such a tragic event.

  16. Yes...even though he was in a supporting role, the Darkling made quite an impression on me, as well. Heh.

  17. Thanks so much for including THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING! I hope you enjoy it!

  18. I need to get Seraphina...I've heard such great things about it.

  19. I've heard a lot of that new Steampunk book. I am hoping to read it someday.



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