Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 | ECF's Year in Review

Well, here we are. Another year nearly over, and now it's time to take a look back on it all, and...try to remember anything that happened before October. I'm not very good with recollecting.

I knew I should have worn sunglasses.
Let's see. Well, at the beginning of the year, I signed up for a bunch of challenges. I kept track of my books faithfully for about a month and a half, and then I -- oh look, a see-through frog! Yeah, I'm not very good at keeping up with challenges, and they generally don't really affect my decisions on what to read anyway, so I decided not so sign up for any this year.

Yes, it is a real thing.
However, I did manage to keep track of how many books I read -- a total of 253 as of this morning, three more than my goal. Of those, 67 were published this year, 116 were first-time reads but published in previous years, and 70 were re-reads. You can see all the books I read here. Out of those 183 new-to-me books, I gave six five stars (Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews, Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein).

I also kind of neglected my blog in the summer and fall, but I'm starting to get back into the swing of things and remembering why I started doing this in the first place. I hope next year I'll be back to daily or almost daily posts.

I started another blog with a group of friends that I met on Goodreads. It's called GReeps Through the Shelves, and it's more a discussion blog than a book review blog most of the time. We'd love it if you stopped by to say hello!

Some of my favorite posts of the year: my not-really-a-review of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, my bookish bucket list, the "stars" feature I did at the beginning of the year on the best books in a whole bunch of categories, and my post over at GTS about strong female characters.

Next year, my goals include getting back to daily posts, doing more discussion posts, coming up with some new features, and commenting on more blogs! And in the spirit of commenting, if you'd like to include a link to your own year in review post and/or your favorite post of the year, I'd love to stop by!

See you next year! And remember, the next 52 Fridays are ALL Friday the 13th! Mwahahahahaha.

Jason and Mrs. Vorhees wish you all a happy and lucky
new year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo
Grisha #1
Published June 2012 by Henry Holt & Co. (Macmillan)
YA fantasy
3 stars

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Bite-Sized Review
I'm kind of conflicted about this one. I really enjoyed it, but it also had a lot of serious problems.

-As I said, this was a highly enjoyable book. I finished it quickly and it flowed very well. Pacing, writing, plot -- all good. And because I was so satisfied with the reading experience, I know I will read the next one, despite all of the following flaws.

Brussels Sprouts
-When I first started reading the book. I was excited. "Yay!" I thought. "A book about Russian mythology!" I took Russian for two years in college, but most of what I know of Russian myths I learned from the Kate Daniels series, so I was eager to learn more.

Not so fast. Ravka is basically nothing like Russia, except for some similarity of language sounds. It's disappointing how little research went into this book -- even I, with my two years of mostly-forgotten Russian, noticed several mistakes and no reference to actual Russian myths.

As a fantasy writer, you have two choices. You can either make up your world entirely, in which case you have to be sure to actually put enough effort into worldbuilding to keep your setting from looking like a crappy copy of some time in history, or, you can make your novel a reflection of a real historical period, like Guy Gavriel Kay, in which case you have to do a crap ton of research. Leigh Bardugo, unfortunately, opted for something in between these two paths, which basically means she was too lazy to do either the research or the imagining and ended up stumbling through the woods of directionlessness. If you want a recounting of the actual errors and failures of the book regarding Russian mythology and culture, take a look at Tatiana's review on The Readventurer -- she does a much better job discussing the issue than I could. But basically, let's just say that the setting was less than satisfactory.

-Oh, YA authors. Why is it that all of your characters are exactly the same? There is the shy but spunky outcast heroine narrator with latent powers that will make everyone suddenly respect her, the male friend without much of a personality who might be something more, and the hot, mysterious newcomer who teaches said heroine about her newfound abilities. Go through a list of YA paranormal or fantasy titles and you will find that nearly every one of them fits the bill. Why is this the formula that all YA authors have suddenly decided to follow? Is it too much to ask for something different here?

Recommended for
Fans of YA fantasy like Grave Mercy who aren't necessarily too concerned with setting quality or at least can overlook it.

Quality: Fair
Enjoyability: Excellent

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top Ten Anticipated Books of 2013

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.

Is it really almost 2013 already? It seems like the year's gone by in a blur. But it's time once again to list the books we're looking forward to next year. My top ten choices are listed below, in order of expected (approximate) publication date. Untitled books need not apply, so sorry Divergent #3 and Raven Cycle #2, no list for you.

January 8
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Wheel of Time #14

Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.
What was, what will be, and what is,
may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

February 5
Taherah Mafi
Shatter Me #2

tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

March 12

Melina Marchetta
Lumatere Chronicles #3

There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

April 2
Guy Gavriel Kay

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

April 23
Rachel Vincent
Unbound #3

The secret daughter of the head of an infamous Skilled crime family, Sera Brandt has hidden her past, her potential and especially her powers. But when a tragedy strikes her other family, Sera needs justice. And the only way to get it is to reveal her heritage– including a rare Skill– and take the reins of the Tower Syndicate from her cunning and malicious aunt.

If she can figure out how...

Kristopher Daniels might have the answer. He's fought the syndicate to protect his sisters, but he'd never realized just how close to the new heir he needed to get....

And if they can survive.

Neither is used to trusting. But there's something between them that can't be ignored. And so Sera is on the run with a man she can't figure out, a target on her back and the new knowledge of just how powerful she really is....

May 14
Daniel Abraham
The Dagger and the Coin #3

The great war cannot be stopped.

The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide.

Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a "loyal traitor" and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him.

Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that's taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder's one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety.

And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako's soldiers in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.

June 18
Neil Gaiman

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

July 30

Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels #6

Summary not available.

September 3
Scott Lynch
Gentleman Bastard #3

Having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke's body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him - or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body - though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean's imploring - and the Bondsmagi's mention of a woman from Locke's past . . . Sabetha. The love of his life. His equal in skill and wit. And now his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow-orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha - or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

Seanan McGuire
October Daye #7

Summary not available.

What books should I add to my list? Let me know what new releases you're looking forward to next year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Ten Book Boyfriends 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.

I kind of had trouble with this category, because while I like YA books (sometimes), I have a hard time thinking of YA boys as hot. I mean, they're in high school. Their relationships can be hot, but I can't think of them that way. Have you met a high school boy recently? Exactly. That does limit my options somewhat, so I decided to diversify. I still only came up with eight, but hey, close enough.

2012's Hottest Guys

Raphael Medrano
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Raphael turned me over and looked at me, his face close to mine. "You and I will never be done.You're my mate."

He kissed the corner of my mouth. I almost cried.

"I stopped sleeping since you left," he said "I'll sleep for a couple of hours,wake up, you're not there." I closed my eyes.

"I need an answer, Andrea," he said.

"An answer?"

"Mate. Yes or no."

"Do you need to ask?" I whispered."You're my mate.”

Harry Dresden
Cold Days by Jim Butcher

“I know it's not thematically in tune with my new job and all, but I find it effective. Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day," I say. "But set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life. Tao of Pratchett. I live by it.” 

Tybalt, King of Cats
Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

“It’s been a long time since I’ve loved someone, but I know what it feels like. When you turn from me, it hurts. When you think badly of me, I think badly of myself. When you do stupid, suicidal things, I want to slap you upside the head and demand to know how you can be so brilliant and so blind at the same time.” Tybalt’s expression was calm. “If that’s not love, what is it?” 

Ian Holt
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

“Wow. What would you do if I said I was angry?"

"I would make fire rain from the heavens to smite your enemies with the flames of our shared rage.”

2012's Hottest Women

Andrea Nash
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Since we’re playing that game… I tilted my face up to his and gave him a lovesick gaze.

“Do you have to sneeze?” he asked.

“Be quiet. I’m pretending to enjoy your company, just as you said.”

“Try not to strain anything.”

“Oh, I won’t. I’m very good at faking it.”

That shut him up.

Anna Latham Cornick
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

“Is it like a Harry Potter thing?"
He turned his head then. "A what?"

"A Harry Potter thing," she said again. "You know, don't say Voldemort's name because you might attract his attention?"

He considered it. "You mean the children's book."

"I have got to get you to watch more movies," she said. "You'd enjoy these. Yes, I mean the children's book.”

Verity Price
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

A proper lady should be able to smile pretty, wear sequins like she means it, and kick a man's ass nine ways from Sunday while wearing stiletto heels. If she can't do that much, she's not trying hard enough. 

Kori Daniels
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent

“We haven’t met… I’m Kori Daniels. If you don’t get that gun out of my face, I’m gonna take it, then I’m gonna break your jaw so I can unhinge it and shove your pistol down your throat. That way the bullet goes through the long way.”

And that's it! Who's on your list?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Ten Villains 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.

Of today's post options, villains was clearly the best. However, that does present a slight problem, as the identity of the villain often isn't revealed until later in a book, and even when you do know the villain fairly early, the reason they're a great one is often spoilery. So if that's the case, I'm just going to list the book info normally, and then, if you've read it, you can highlight below that to see more about the villain. That way nobody gets spoiled and everyone is happy. (Unless you have some kind of quota-fulfilling fetish, in which case, sorry, I only came up with six. Good villains are hard to find.)


The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham

Geder Palliako: Geder is particularly scary because he's so believable. Most of the time he's a shy, awkward man thrust into a position he's nowhere near prepared for, but sometimes that lack of preparation and his own pettiness lead him to make bad choices. His intentions are generally good, or at least not evil in the sense of, say, Voldemort or Sauron, but his actions have terrible, devastating consequences.

Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews

John Drayton: I think the reason John Drayton is such a terrible villain is because he just thinks he's just doing what he has to do to survive. If it ruins people's lives and perpetuates the Weird's slave trade, that's unfortunate, but there's nothing John can do about it. I love Ilona Andrews for many reasons, and this is one of the main ones -- the attention they give to motivation and personality makes their characters seem so much more real.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Queen Mab: Mab isn't exactly the villain of the story, and she isn't even really bad...exactly. She's more a primal force than a person, but what we've seen of her layers upon layers of plans and manipulations are impressive enough to make anyone a little apprehensive.

Blackout by Mira Grant

The CDC: As the most trusted government organization in the country, no one would expect the CDC to be manipulating data and the Kellis-Amberlee virus itself. It sounds like your classic evil organization, but really the people involved are just doing what they think is necessary.


An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Blind Michael: Most of the villains on this list are disturbing because they're so easy to understand, but there's something to be said for some good old fairy-tale, horror-movie scary. And that's Blind Michael. He's virtually all-powerful in his domain, he kidnaps children to use in his Hunt, and he's the stuff of nightmares.

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

Mayor Prentiss: The thing about Mayor Prentiss is that even knowing that he's only interested in power, when he says he's trying to help, he's amazingly convincing. He ties Viola and Todd in knots trying to figure him out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Guest Post | Top Ten Covers 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.

Personally, I am not a cover person. I like it when my covers look nice, but I don't drool over them, and it certainly doesn't affect whether I buy a book. Luckily, I have friends who do love covers, and the lovely Lolita from Lola's Reviews volunteered to do a guest post for me. Thank you, Lolita! Make sure you stop by her blog to say hi, too! Now without further ado, I'll turn things over to her. Merry Christmas, everybody!

I am Lolita from Lola's Reviews and I will be doing a guest post today about my top 10 covers of 2012. Thanks so much Kate for having me on your awesome blog!

So today I will share with you my top 10 of favourite covers of books that were published in 2012. In no particular order (because I just can't choose which cover I like better than others).

Lucid (Brightest Kind of Darkness)
by P.T. Michelle

I love this cover mainly because of the beautiful autumn colours. I also like covers with nature on it and this one has trees and leaves on it. I also think that the character perfectly fits my image of the main character (probably because she was also on the cover of the first book).

by Kaitlin Bevis

I love this cover because of how simple it is. There is nothing on it besides the hand and the pomgranates. I also like the connection with the story, because the pomgranates play an important part in the myth surrounding Persephone. Also the colours fit nicely together and I like how the red colour of the pomgranates is also used in the title. And the background isn't totally white or grey, there is still enough to see there.
by Amy Joy Lutchen

At first I didn't really know what to think of this cover, but I ended up really liking it. I am not sure if it really fits the book, but at least the ring plays an important part in story. Also the dark colours and the magical feel do correspond with the story. What I like most about the cover is the simle design, the combination of the blue background and the red title and the moon in the sky. The ring, the title and the book really are the three things that attract my attention on this cover.

The Reapers are the Angels
by Alden Bell

To be honest I have no idea if I ever will buy and read this book, because it just doens't sound like a book for me, but I love the cover. I love the despair and the emotions on it. I also like how the girl isn't so big on the cover, but still an important part of it. I also like the colours and how they add to the whole sad feeling of this cover. I actually would consider buying this book only for the awesome cover.

Leah Bobet

Again a book I haven't read yet. I like how this cover uses the same type of colours. It feels a bit nostalgic. I also like how we don't see the face of the girl, but her back instead and how she looks so normal, but still has wings. I also like the city on the background, like she is watching the city. And I love skylines on covers, for some reason.
Angela J. Townsend

This cover grabs my attention, because it is ovious where the story is about from seeing the cover and it totally fits the story. A wolf in the background, a girl on the front and the overal winter feeling of the cover. Also the title and the author name are done in a special lettertype which fits the cover, without being too distracting from the picture. I do think the mist looks a bit fake. The cover model also fits my idea of how the main character looks, or more likely I based my idea of how the main character looks on this cover.
Fire (Akasha #3)
by Terra Harmony

I really like the simple design of this cover, but what makes me love this cover is the fire. I love how magical it looks and also how controlled in the palm of that hand. I also think that fire is beautifull to look at and the fire on this cover looks so real and beautifull. I really could stare at this cover for a while.
Furthermore: an Anthology
by Rebekah Campbell, David Estes, Amber Garr, Karen Amanda Hooper, Stephanie Judice, Leigh Michael and Mayandree Michel

There are several reasons I love this cover. I like the calm feeling it emits. Also I love the sunset and I love how it contains all these nice colours. I also like how the stones at the front overlap part of what is behind it and make it seem like you're standing in that cover looking out.
Iced (Fever #6)
by Karen Marie Moning

What I like about this cover is the ice, it looks so real and it's like there is a coat of ice on it that prevents you from seeing the corners. I do like how the title is also made of ice, but I also don't like it because it does clashes a bit with the background. I like the way the city looks and the focus on the girl in the middle, without her being on the front. I really should read this book soon.
The Sea of Tranquility
by Katja Millay

At first I actually didn't like this cover that much, I only liked the fact that it is a simple cover and doens't have a person on the cover (because let's face it, there are so many cover that do have a person on the cover). After reading this book I like this cover more, because I finally realised that those things on the cover are coins and how this connects with the story. I love simple covers that have a connection to the story, although I do think that the cover doens't fit the story very well besides the link with the coins.

So that was my top 10 covers of this year! What are your favourite covers of this year?

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!