Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten books read in 2012

Death's handmaidens, bibliophilic dragons, the Big Bad Wolf vs. a smug cat, death's bells, polar bears vs. trolls, a kidnapping king, blue biogel, the Unsea, girlfs and boyfs and going mal were some of favorite things this year. 

Top Ten Tuesday is  an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here). 

Feeling a little shame-faced, but all my top picks were fantasy and science fiction. While I also read some wonderful contemporaries and historicals, they just didn't sing to me the same way. What can I say? I'm a SF/F geek to the core. 

There are only three books on this list that were actually new in 2012; most of my top ten list are famous older books that I just now got around to reading. And if you haven't got around to reading them yet, go do so. There is a REASON why they popped up on my radar years after the fact; these are stinking good books.

10. Feed, by M.T. Anderson (2004)
Feed
Titus doesn't have a girlfriend; he has a girlf, and a typical teen insult in his time is to tell someone they are "completely unformatted."  Here at the end of 2012, iPhones are so "over" and Galaxies are now in the limelight, but such gizmos are completely redundant in this ironic SF future where everyone is directly hooked up to the internet, the Feed. Inundated with amazing tech and with instant access to everything desirable, it turns out that nothing remains desirable.  This book is brilliant and sad and addictive.

9. The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson (2008)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles, #1)
I dropped the book at one point in a "no way!" kind of surprise. But I immediately picked it back up and didn't set it down until I finished. Like Feed, this science fiction book has a contemporary young adult feel to it that sort of lulls you through the SF stuff until it smacks you across the face. Unlike Feed, there's also a lot of heart in this story, too.

8. East, by Edith Pattou (2005)
East
This is one of those wonderful fairy tales with princes and castles and trolls and enchanted creatures - but with a interesting twist on all the traditional elements. The trolls are not ugly, for instance. The castle is buried inside a mountain. In a nutshell, it's the Scandinavian version of Beauty and the Beast, where Rose, the youngest daughter in a family fallen into unfortunate times, is taken away by a great white enchanted bear under a curse.  There were so many things about this story I loved. The dress made out of aurora borealis. Story knives. An epic quest to the North Pole. Five points of view orchestrated like a symphony. I nearly cried when it was over because I did not want it to end.

7. His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novak (2006)

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, #1)
Temeraire has become my most beloved dragon, among a very rich playing field of famous dragons like Smaug, Toothless, Ramoth, Maleficent, Draco, Eustace, Saphira, Yevaud, etc...  He's a co-main-character, with even more page-time than Saphira from Eragon, so that certainly helps. He is innocent and wise, deadly and noble, a lover both of books and battle tactics. To top it off, he exists in a Jane Austen meets Master and Commander fantasy version of Regency England and the Napoleonic Wars.

6. Sabriel, by Garth Nix (1996)
Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)
It probably sounds really wrong to say this, but I have never found death so fascinating. Sabriel can travel into death - a world all of its own - to retrieve the dead and sometimes even bring them back to life. But there's a price to be paid for crossing death's borders. I loved the charter magic in this book, the free magic (especially Mogget!!), the marks, the sendings, the bells, the wall between the old kingdom and the new, all the intricate world-building that is slowly, deliciously dribbled out in a way that is riveting instead of overwhelming.

5. The Iron Knight, by Julie Kagawa (2011)
The Iron Knight (Iron Fey, #4)
Full of delightful contrasts: icy, noble Prince Ash versus irreverent  prankster Puck; the smug know-it-all cat Grimalkin versus the angry, relentless Big Bad Wolf. This is a story of a faery prince on a quest to gain a soul, without which he cannot join his mortal beloved. Both a fantasy quest of highest adventure as well as an inner-quest of soul-searching, this fourth book of the Iron Fey series also stands out brilliantly by itself.

4. Grave Mercy, by R.L. La Fevers (2012)
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Two words: killer nuns. If that doesn't raise an eyebrow, then how about a girl who can see which people who are marked for death, is immune to poison, and is trained as an assassin? And is often forced to assume very un-nun-like roles? A most riveting historical fantasy, set in medieval Brittany, rife with court intrigue and various assassinations and attempts. Topped-off with a great love-hate, I-don't-dare-trust-you-but-I'm-sure-tempted relationship between Ismae and Duval.

3. Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (2012)
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)
Ah. The Darkling, the Darkling, the Darkling. For every 20 books or so I read, there appears one character that grabs you by throat and won't let you go. You catch yourself smiling at thoughts of him (or her) at odd and unexpected moments. The Darkling is a character you want very much to love, even when you know you should fear and hate him. And there's plenty of other good stuff in this fantasy version of tsarist Russia, too.

2. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman (2012)
Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
To date, the longest review I have ever written, over 3000 words, goes to this absolutely stellar debut. This book is not for everyone: it's very cerebral. There's not a lot of action. But, it has unique dragons. Wait, you say, dragons are so overdone.  The sheer brilliance of this book is that the dragons break every stereotype but are still completely every stereotype that you love about dragons. Large, fiery, dangerous, gold-horde-ing, Smaugish, they are all that but also 10 times more complex and fascinating. And they can turn into humans. The implications of that! Well! Go see for yourself. 

1. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (1987)
Either I just say one thing about this book; or I endlessly rave about it. I shall spare you. The one thing I shall is: "Can I pleasssssse be kidnapped by Corlath??? Please?"
The Blue Sword (Damar, #1)

So these are my top ten, but fortunately I discovered this YA Superlative blogfest which allows me to share some more great books that released in 2012 tomorrow, by category (e.g. best first line, best setting, etc).



Meanwhile, I would love to hear what your favorite books this year were!

16 comments:

  1. I'm ashamed to say that I still need to read Grave Mercy. Great picks though.

    Here's my top 10

    ~Danica Page

    Taking it One Page at a Time

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  2. ooooh so many of the same ones as me including the adoration of jenna fox which I hardly ever see anyone talk about so I'm excited

    my TTT

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  3. i m very excited to Read "Grave Mercy" thanks to share with us a nice collection of books

    chapter summaries

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  4. Lisa @ Bookshelf FantasiesDecember 18, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Someone else who loves The Blue Sword! (Swoon...) If you get kidnapped by Corleth, make sure there's room for me to tag along, please! Great list -- I'll have to check these out.

    Lisa

    My
    TTT

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  5. Hey, don't apologize for liking what you like! I too loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox - and I'm not a sci-fi gal, at all. It didn't feel like sci-fi and it had so much heart, as you mentioned.

    Shadow and Bone is on my bedside table right now. I just have a MG (The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls) to read first.

    Thanks for the list! I love adding new books to my TBR list.

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  6. Favorite books this year would be "The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise" by Julia Stuart; "Flight from Berlin" by David John; "The Winter Palace" by Eva Stachniak; and a biography of Catherine the Great.

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  7. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is on my TBR list. It already has a raving fan following!

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  8. Those stories sound amazing. I'm ashamed to say I only read about 15 books this whole year, so a top ten would be pointless.

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  9. I'd love to read more about Catherine the Great. And the name of that first one as a similar ring the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - might have to check it out! :)

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  10. Happy day! I've met another Blue Sword fan! I really think you'd like Seraphina if you liked the Blue Sword.

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  11. Yay we both had Jenna on our lists. Just checked out our lists...wow we have similar tastes!

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  12. I used to be into YA fantasy, but that switched to YA paranormals and dystopians, and now I favor YA contemporaries.

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  13. Nemo @ the Moonlight LibraryDecember 18, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    I am dying to read East after reading Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, which is based on the same fairy tale. I'd also love to read Grave Mercy - I didn't realise it was fantasy, and Seraphina. I'm happy to see Sabriel coming out of the shadows as well - in book terms, it's kind of old!

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  14. yay for sf/f and the kingdom there of!
    writing a couple of these down
    love these reviews, wish more would tell me what they are reading! i'm so slow!
    my fave this year was the Night Circus by erin morgenstern, my words cannot do her glorious story justice...leave it to say my heart was floating when i finished...and that is so not me!

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  15. I'm going to look for His Majesty's Dragon and hope the library has it. I'm rather enjoying dragon stories lately.

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  16. I'm scouring the blogosphere for bloggers with similar taste in books, and I found your blog :)

    I adored both Feed and Adoration of Jenna Fox. They were two of my favorite books of the year. I actually had to read them for a YA Dystopian class! So fun! Both books are the kind of Sci-Fi that make you think, which I love! Have you read anything by Cory Doctorow? His book Little Brother was one of my other favorites from my YA Dystopian class, and I bet you'd like it too!

    I read the entire Iron Fey series this summer and really enjoyed them! I want to check out Kagawa's new series (Immortal Rules) soon too!

    I have both Grave Mercy and Shadow and Bone on my to-read list because I've heard such wonderful things about both!

    Looking forward to following you! I'm happy to find a book blogger who also posts about writing because I do the same thing!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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