Monday, December 24, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012


Top 10 of 2012 is a fun-filled week where we look back at some of the best of “all things books” of 2012 and what books we’re looking forward to in 2013, co-hosted by: Rachel from FiktshunLisa from A Life Bound By BooksJessica from Confessions of a BookaholicJaime from Two Chicks on Books, and Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads.

Although the rules for today say these can be any books read this year, whether or not they were actually published in 2012, I decided that it would make my life MUCH easier to just consider books that came out this year. Of the 249 books I've read so far this year, 64 of them have a 2012 publication date, which still gives me plenty to work with. Also, I'm really bad at ranking things, so I decided to do an Academy Awards-style post, sans acceptance speeches. (Titles have links to my reviews, covers have links to Goodreads.)

*cue anticipatory applause*

Best Realistic Fiction
I mostly read speculative fiction: scifi, fantasy, dystopia, post-apocalypse, etc. But there are a few books I picked up this year that actually take place in the real world, and it turns out to be a really difficult choice between some excellent books. 

The shortlist:
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

And the winner is...

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green! 


I was speechless when I finished this book in the early hours of the morning (and I couldn't see very well either), and it's one of a handful of books I gave 5 stars to this year. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most intense, emotional books I've ever read, and I absolutely loved it.

***

Best New Series
New series are hit or miss. Sometimes even the best series get a shaky start (see The Dresden Files or October Daye). However, once in a while a new series starts with a bang, and here are some of the most "pow" first in series books of the year.

The shortlist:
Unspoken by Sara Rees Brennan
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Partials by Dan Wells

And the winner is...

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater!


The Raven Boys was fascinating in so many ways, from a unique and weirdly believable mythology to an unusual cast of characters. It doesn't hurt that Maggie Stiefvater writes beautifully. All in all, it added up to an excellent novel.

***

Best Novella/Short Story
While I definitely prefer full-length novels to their shorter siblings, I do occasionally enjoy novellas and short stories, especially when they feature characters I already love. I actually really enjoyed a number of this year's short fiction pieces by some of my favorite authors.

The shortlist:
Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews
Bigfoot on Campus by Jim Butcher
Mercury Begins by Robert Kroese
Legion by Brandon Sanderson

And the winner is...

Legion by Brandon Sanderson!


Brandon Sanderson has an amazing talent for worldbuilding, and Legion is a great example of his skill. The novella is narrated by a man with dozens of aspects, "hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills" (from the Goodreads summary).

***

Best Main Character
The main character can make or break a novel. They're our window to the story; we see what they see, feel what they feel, know what they know. So having a good one? Priceless.

The shortlist:
Anna Latham Cornick, Fair Game by Patricia Briggs
Harry Dresden, Cold Days by Jim Butcher
October Daye, Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
Kori Daniels, Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

And the winner is...

Kori Daniels, Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent



Kori is a fascinating mess of contradictions. She is prickly and vulnerable, angry and deeply caring. Watching the layers fall away throughout the book was probably the best part.

***

Best Friendship
It was surprisingly difficult to find books with great friendships that were written this year. The focus, at least in the books I read, seems to be on romance, with other close friends coming in a distant second. But that's not to say that there aren't some amazing friendships out there.

The shortlist:
Kate and Andrea, Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
Rachel, Ivy, and Jenks, A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison
Auggie, Summer, and Jack, Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Maddie and Verity, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

And the winner is...

Maddie and Verity, from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein



Maddie and Verity's friendship is probably one of the best I've read ever, much less in 2012. It's hard to talk about this book without giving anything away, but I will say that it is amazing and just thinking about it is giving me chills (in an epic way, not a scary way).

***

Best Contemporary Fantasy
I think that this year, the majority of the books I read fell into this category, which makes for a really tough decision. There are some amazing series out there, and they all deserve an award. However, since I can only pick one...

The shortlist:
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
Cold Days by Jim Butcher
Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

And the winner is...

Cold Days by Jim Butcher!


The Dresden Files is easily one of the best urban fantasy series out there, and the fact that the books are still excellent even in the fourteenth installment is nothing short of astonishing. The combination of increasingly dark plots and Harry's irrepressible humor works extraordinarily well, and Butcher handles numerous intricate plotlines without dropping a single thread.

***

Best Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Since the success of The Hunger Games, dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels have exploded in popularity, so there are a lot of books to choose from here.

The shortlist:
Blackout by Mira Grant
Railsea by China Miéville
A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Partials by Dan Wells

And the winner is...

Blackout by Mira Grant!


The Newsflesh trilogy is an emotional roller coaster, filled with twists and turns. I think Feed was probably my favorite of the three, but Blackout was an excellent conclusion to the series. It was full of action and secrets, two things that I absolutely love in books, and it didn't disappoint.

***

Best Series Continuation
There's First in Series Syndrome, and then there's Middle Book Syndrome, where nothing much happens because the book is just a bridge from the beginning to the end. But never fear, many books still escape the epidemic! Here are my favorites.

The shortlist:
Cold Days by Jim Butcher
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

And the winner is...

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta!


While I was a bit disappointed by Finnikin of the Rock, I loved Froi of the Exiles. The secrecy, the characters, the danger -- all of it added up to a spectacular, gripping second book.

***

Best Series Conclusion
I suppose there's really no easy part of a story, because it seems to me that endings are as difficult as beginnings or middles. Some excellent series came to an end this year, but really, there was no question in my mind of who would win.

The shortlist:
Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews
Black Heart by Holly Black
Blackout by Mira Grant
Mercury Rests by Robert Kroese

And the winner is...

Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews!


I really, really love Ilona Andrews' work, especially the attention they give to their character development and motivation. The characters in this book were stellar. I also love that they can make me really enjoy a book that could, semi-reasonably, be classified as romance -- mostly by filling it with exciting and highly lethal action as well. I've loved the Edge, and I'll be sad to see it go.

***

Most Hopeful
I love dark, heavy plots. In most of the books I read, disturbingly large numbers of people die in fairly gruesome ways. That's not to say they're without hope -- happy endings are always good -- but usually it's a bittersweet kind. But it is Christmas Eve, so here are some books that really, honestly made me feel good about humanity. They're not without sorrows -- sometimes big ones -- but in the end, they're about hope.

The shortlist:
See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sarah Pennypacker

And the winner is...

Wonder by R.J. Palacio!



Since I was the one who picked the categories and "nominees," I should probably be totally honest and tell you that I invented this category so that Wonder could appear on my list. This was a beautiful book about acceptance and confidence, and I really hope it wins the Newbery next year. If you want a book that will have you smiling when you close it, pick Wonder.

***

Whew! I guess I kind of bent the rules by including all those nominees, but hey, if you were in a hurry, you probably just looked at the covers anyway, right? If you took the time to read the entire post, I bow to your effort and attention! Seriously, thanks. If you're not sick of reading about the best books of 2012 yet, stop by the group blog I participate in called GReeps Through the Shelves, where we each had to narrow down all our favorites of the year to one book!

What did you think of these books? What were your picks? Don't forget to leave a link to your post when you comment -- I'd love to see other people's favorites!

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

15 comments:

  1. This post must have taken you a while to put up! o.O But I do totally agree with almost all of you choices. I have yet to read Code Name Verity, but I've heard so many good things about it. :)

    Here are my top 10.

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  2. I love how you did your post and don't think I have read most of these.
    My Top 10

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  3. Oooo! I suck! I haven't read any of those books. :( But I've heard fabulous things about most of those books.

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  4. I've heard so many good things about Code Name Verity so I definitely have to read that soon! Love your list! :)

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  5. This was fun post with lots of great books on it :) I still need to read Wonder & The Fault in Our Stars, as well as most of you other winners :) I'm just so behind on my series...

    My Top 10 of 2012

    Happy Holidays!

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  6. The Raven Boys was excellent! I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing style. And it's awesome how you've done your post - so creative :)

    My Top 10 of 2012 is here if you'd like a look :)

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  7. i have read zero but i'm hoping to read the raven boys and wonder
    gr8 way to make a list btw



    my top 10

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  8. I sadly haven't read any of these but am dying to read The Raven Boys!
    My Top 10

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  9. Shadow Bound was amazing! I'm so happy to see that it made someone's list. After seeing how popular The Raven Boys is on today's list I'm adding it to my 2013 wishlist. Great picks! :)

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  10. This is tragic! **shakes head** Why haven't I read any of the books on your list yet? :( And Raven Boys had been on my wishlist for a long long time....

    Thanks for stopping by,by the way. :D

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  11. Ooh I like the way you organized this! Loveee The Raven Boys, and Code Name Verity was so powerful!

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  12. Great list! The Raven Boys... ah, the raven boys. I loved it so much! it made

    My List

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  13. I really have to read The Fault in Our Stars and The Raven Boys (which is on my TBR pile) soon!!!

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  14. Your list is just amazing. I love how you went at it, and agree with the titles I read myself. The others are mostly all on my TBR, too. Hehe.

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  15. Hi, from a new GFC follower.

    A great selection: I haven’t read all of these, but quite a few are on my TBR list! :)

    My Top 10 Reads: http://coffeecookiesandchilipeppers.blogspot.com/2012/12/top-10-of-2012-best-books-read-in-2012.html

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I love your comments! I try to respond to them...eventually!

This is now an award-free blog. I love and totally appreciate that you thought of me, but I know myself better than to think I would be organized enough to pass them along, and that doesn't seem fair.

Finally, if you're posting a URL, the code to make it actually link to your site is <.a href="your URL">your text<./a>, without the periods.