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Favourites of 2012

I'm sort of late on this post; the truth of the matter is that I suck at school and still -- even after six months -- can't seem to find a happy balance between school, reading and blogging. Doesn't help that I messed up my wrist a few weeks ago after I fell down a flight of stairs, so typing for any length of time has been a pain (literally.) ANYWAY, I have a week off school, so some catching up is in order.

Before jumping into my favourites, I want to look at a few stats. In 2012, I read 147 books. 23 of those were graphic novels and manga and 2 were DNFs, meaning 122 of my reads were novels. My goal was to read 100, so I'm more than happy with what I've accomplished this year. :)

Also, a note on this list. This is NOT a top ten. I'm lazy and couldn't be bothered to list my favourites of this year. So I'm just going to highlight the books I *really* loved and be done with it. These will have blurbs from my reviews as to why I liked them. I will have honourable mentions as well though -- these will be books that I really enjoyed but that just didn't quite make the cut. These won't have segments of my review, but they will be linked to them if you're curious and want to read what I thought of them.

So, onto the favourites!!

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
From my review: This companion novel was even better than Ship Breaker (which is saying quite a bit, as that title was pretty fantastic). I really hope that Bacigalupi writes more stories in this vivid and brutal world he's created (but honestly? I'll read anything this man writes.) The story was a little slower this time around, but was made up with the wonderful world-building -- real-world issues are once again applied to create a believable future -- and the conflicted characters were sympathetic. I'd recommend reading this even if you haven't yet read Ship Breaker; it's stands perfectly fine on its own and I don't think readers need the previous novel to truly appreciate this one. Very highly recommended, and one of my favourite reads of the year.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
From my review: If the plot feels slow-moving and overly descriptive at first, I beg you to persevere and keep reading. I was underwhelmed with the first quarter of this book, but when things pick up, they REALLY pick up; especially the second-half of the novel. The ending couldn't have been more perfect, and while I didn't have a big fat cry like I was expecting to, it was all still really gut-wrenching and packed an emotional punch. It brought everything together in an amazing way and redeemed any misgivings I initially had. I also have to commend the amount of research that went into this novel; the author's note at the end of the book was also fantastic in explaining what details were historically accurate or exaggerated for the sake of the story, but overall, it was so well done. This is guaranteed to end up on my list of favourite books for this year and I highly recommend it.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
From my review: Valente's first Fairyland book was one of my favourite reads of 2011, and I can safely say that this sequel will end up on my Favourites of 2012. Readers will get to return to Fairyland (though it won't be quite the same as before), and the story and world show growth that parallel that of the main character September. This makes for a wholly new experience while also being just as charming and whimsical as the first novel. One of the more prevalent themes, that of growing up, was probably my favourite aspect of the novel and was dealt with in a way that had me doing happy dances -- I'm excited to see where Valente brings this in future novels in this series. Valente's writing continues
to be amazing, and I love her fusion of the old and the new: she's clearly inspired by classics of Children Fantasy, but she takes them and
puts her own distinctive twist on them. I highly recommend this to Fantasy fans of all ages: there's something here for everyone.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
I am a huge cheater and included BOTH of the books from the series as one. I'm sorry but I couldn't bring myself to pick just one!!

From my reviews: (The Girl of Fire and Thorns) This fantasy debut was fantastic, and I think any Fantasy fan should check it out. Please don't let the fact that it's YA deter you: there are no YA trends to be found in this book at all (NO LOVE TRIANGLE!). I loved the heroine Elisa to death; she's smart and extremely capable, but equally vulnerable. The issue of her weight also makes her very relatable. It's a well-realized world, and while some people were uncomfortable with the similarities to Judeo-Christianity, I had no issues (though your mileage may vary.) Highly recommended, and I can't wait for the rest of the trilogy. :)

(The Crown of Embers) AAHH THIS BOOK!! I loved this book!! I love this series! This sequel met my expectations and then some. Middle books are always tricky business because it can be too easy  for them to be "transition" novels, or novels that are merely setup for the finale, but Carson managed to avoid that with this fantastic sequel. Even when most of the action (for the first 3/4 at least) of the novel takes place in the castle and is mostly political intrigue and tiptoeing on Elisa's part as she gets used to her new position as Hero and Queen, I still couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

The Ashbury/Brookfield series by Jaclyn Moriarty
Again, another series, but I'm not even sorry. Out of the four books that currently comprise this series, my favourite is a tie between Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments, but really? They're all good. The only one I didn't LOVE was The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie.

From my reviews: (Feeling Sorry For Celia) I loved this book. It was laugh-out-loud funny, but it was also sad (without feeling contrived), and it had lots of warm-and-fuzzy moments as well. I don't have much experience with epistolary novels, but I found that the style worked wonderfully for this novel and despite the confinements of it, all the characters felt developed and like very real, quirky people. Even though the other books in this series doesn't follow the same characters, I'm still so very excited to read the other books in this series.

(The Year of Secret Assignments) Moriarty has once again written an amazing epistolary novel (that makes me forget my hang-ups with epistolary novels) that balances humour and serious issues perfectly. The main characters were quirky, ridiculous, but completely lovable and I wanted to be a part of their wonderful little clique because their friendship was so enviable. This wasn't quite as funny as Feeling Sorry For Celia, but that book set the bar quite high, to be honest. Even if you haven't read Feeling Sorry For Celia, don't hesitate picking this up -- the book stands perfectly find on its own.

(The Murder of Binzy Mackenzie) This was my least favourite book of the Ashbury/Brookfield series thus far, but there's still a lot to like. Yeah, Bindy's initially an annoying character, but I could never take her completely seriously anyway, so she didn't seem that bad to me. The story itself seems like your typical "Annoying Person Learns a Life Lesson", and it IS that, but then ends up being something COMPLETELY different by the end. All the clues are there, but the ending still felt like it came out nowhere, which is still baffling me. I liked it okay, but it was WEIRD. I also wish this novel had been trimmed up a bit. There are some bits that are obviously important and needed to be there (even if they didn't seem important initially) but there was so much that felt like extra. Regardless, this was a good book and I can't wait to read the next book in the Ashbury/Brookfield series.

(The Ghost of Ashbury High) I loved this installment in the Ashbury/Brookfield series. I've read on Moriarty's website that this is going to be the last one for awhile (she's apparently planning on publishing a trilogy) which makes me sad, but at least she finished off with a bang, because this book was gothically delicious. Moriarty once again balances humour with heavy subject matter and does so in a totally unique way. Even if you're not a connoisseur of gothic fiction, the gothic elements in this book were so well done (and a lot of times funny) that I didn't need to be. Also worth noting is that this book may be the fourth installment in a series, but it can be read on its own (like the rest of the series) so even if you haven't read the others, don't let that stop you from picking this up.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
From my review: There's so much to like here: unique world-building (though it contains a lot of familiar elements as well, but it's still imbued with originality), a very likable heroine with an equally likable best friend, and a love story that isn't grating or the least bit annoying (which is saying a lot, because the nature of the love story is something that usually drives me up a wall.) You have all this, as well as Taylor's wonderfully evocative writing; she nails the Prague setting and has a writing style that is adorned without being cloying or purple. The ending of the book made me want the second book in the series, like, yesterday, and November seriously can't come soon enough. Finishing this novel has also heralded the end to reading all of Laini Taylor's books, which makes me sad. She has become an insta-buy author for me.

The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Oh look, another series!

(Leviathan) A wonderful demonstration of some of the best world-building I've seen in awhile. Westerfeld takes steampunk and totally runs with it, while also mixing in something completely new and fresh (Darwinism). The characters were both likable, though I have a very clear penchant for the wonderful girl-disguised-as-a-boy Deryn and her rough vernacular. Her story is overall more exciting, but I still liked Alek immensely as well. The secondary characters get plenty of development and page-time too. I loved all the wonderful illustrations that populate this book; they're very detailed and incredibly well drawn, and I'm glad that the publishers decided to publish this on nice high-quality paper (though it does make the book kind of heavy.)

(Behemoth) This was an awesome second volume to this wonderful trilogy. The story is self-contained, so there's no fear of cliff-hangers, and the story is wonderfully fast-paced (as opposed to the first volume which was little slow to start). The world-building continues to enthrall me, and Westerfeld's world is even further fleshed out in this volume. Alek's character really comes into his own here, though I still unsurprisingly prefer Deryn.

(Goliath) I loved this series from start to finish and I'm so glad I read them all in one go instead of waiting forever to read them all (I have a nasty habit of reading the first book in a series, loving it, and then never getting to the rest of the series.) The world-building in this series has been some of the most well thought-out and imaginative I've ever come across and extremely likable characters to accompany it. This conclusion is somewhat predictable in many aspects, but those bits were so satisfying to read regardless, and there were enough surprises to keep things interesting. I seriously recommend this series. :)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
From my review: I really enjoyed this fantasy debut. It has some of the best world-building I've seen in a fantasy in awhile (no, it's not nearly as sprawling as, say, A Song of Ice and Fire, but it's fantastic regardless!), and the politics surrounding the dragons and the humans was really well developed on all fronts. The murder mystery plot-line was really fun and I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of it. Where this book truly shines though is the characters: Seraphina is a fantastic lead, and the supporting characters -- especially Kiggs and Glisselda -- were awesome. I loved them all and I can't wait to revisit them in future installments in this promising series.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
From my review: I really, REALLY enjoyed this. It's a great post-apoc/zombie novel and puts a lot of emphasis on the characters (even more so than most zombie books). All the characters in this novel -- and there are quite a few -- are distinct, and will likely instigate love-hate relationships with the reader. No one is WHOLLY likable or unlikable; they all sit in the middle (though I still have my favourites and not-so-favourites). The main character, despite being mostly (though not completely) detached, still manages to be an incredibly likable character who you just want to take care of. I'm really glad I read this and now want to devour the rest of Summers' backlist that I haven't gotten to yet (which is all of two books -- too bad.)

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
From my review: This is a beautiful, quiet little novel that I absolutely loved. The two leads, Charlie and Rose, are very likable but equally realistic in how flawed they are and how much growth they both experience over the course of the novel. I feel the story was mostly Charlie's, but Rose was just as compelling even if she took a little longer to grow on me than Charlie did. There is romance, but it's very well handled with male characters who are NOT paper cutouts of perfect boys who are present for the sole purpose of giving the female character someone to fall in love with. It was just an overall awesome read, and one I highly recommend (especially if you're a fan of contemporary YA).

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
From my review(lette): I really don't think I can do this novel justice. There is so much subtlety, so much nuance, so much beauty and sadness between in these pages that nothing I could say would convey that to anyone who reads this review in a satisfactorily way. It is books like these to really set the bar for YA literature, and it is these kinds of books that I want to shove in people's faces and say: "SEE!! Teen books can be MATURE and it's not all SPARKLY VAMPIRES and insepid teen romances." Seriously though, this book could be shelved in any "adult" section and I don't think people would notice the difference.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
From my review: I really enjoyed this novel. The setting is beautiful and one of the most evocative instances of setting-as-character that I've come across in awhile. Our leads, Sean and Puck, are wonderful characters and I wanted them both to get their happy ending, though it feels impossible. This, however, kept the tension high throughout this quiet and contemplative story (though the ending was definitely exciting.) For those who like their romance, the relationship between Sean and Puck is very slow-burn and doesn't have the drama found with a lot of other YA couples, but it's exactly because of this that it's so poignat and gripping. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy quiet stories with a focus on character and setting, and a notable read of 2012 for me.

And, as promised, here are some honourable mentions:

Split by Swait Avasthi
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is Shyness by Leanne Hall
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
Boneshaker; Dreadnought; Ganymede by Cherie Priest
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Lips Touch: Three Times; Blackbringer; Silksinger by Laini Taylor
Underdogs (Wolfe Brothers #1-3) by Marcus Zusak

I could probably include many more titles here, but this list of favourites is already getting out of hand so I think I'll stop things here.

So that's it!! I obviously had a pretty good reading year in 2012; here's hoping the same can be said for 2013 (I've already three new reads that have earned 5-stars on goodreads, so it's looking promising so far.) I've already read 40 books this year, but about about 60% of them are graphic novels (one of my classes this semester is on integrating graphic novels into library collections -- it's awesome), so I have a lot of catching up to do review-wise. Expect to see a lot of posts in the next couple of of months (or not, because I suck at school.)

Almost all of the blogs I follow have already posted their Best Of lists so I've already seen them, but if you want, link me to your list and I'll be more than happy to check it out. :) 


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