Love Letters

2012 End of Year Book Survey

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Jamie of The Broke and the Bookish and The Perpetual Page Turner created this great end-of-year book survey that I’ve been meaning to complete for three weeks now. Of course, I wasn’t going to publish it until the new year – I read a ton of books over the last two weeks of December! But now that 2012 has officially closed out, I can no longer make excuses.  Thus, I present: my First Annual End of Year Book Survey!

WARNING: QUITE LONG

1. Best book you read in 2012:

Oh GOD, how can I choose? If I sort my Goodreads list for the last year by rating, I come up with 25 five-star books. Certainly not all of them are candidates for “best book”, but several of them present a compelling argument for being awarded thus. Perhaps not surprisingly (and allowable, based on how the question is phrased), I think I’ve decided to choose a book that wasn’t published this year. It has stood the test of time since 1992, and with good reason. It’s a cult classic, garnering the same adoration as Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Princess Bride. It is, of course, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

If I had to choose a book published in 2012, it would be a toss-up between Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Other honourable mentions go to Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (published in 2008) and Graceling by Kristin Cashore (also 2008).

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t:

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier. See my review of it here. Basically, many promising elements held back by a lackluster main character. I am hopeful for the next installment in the series, though!

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012:

For whatever reason, I didn’t have high expectations of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. But wow – how my eyes were opened. Patrick Ness deals with a child’s experience of cancer, death, and the dissolution of the family with such subtlety, such a gentle touch. A Monster Calls may be a book aimed at young readers, but the depth of wisdom captured in its pages will resound with all readers.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012:

This is one of my default recommendations, given out to anyone I think might have the slightest interest in fantasy, paranormal, or romance – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Unfortunately, it is rather hard to describe without making the book sounds completely crackpot: “Well, it’s set in Oxford, and the main character is a witch who likes rowing and tea, and she meets a sexy vampire geneticist who loves wine and yoga…”

5. Best series you discovered in 2012:

Hands down, the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I read the whole thing twice. It’s just so good. You can read my review of the whole series here.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012:

First and foremost, Melina Marchetta. It hurts my heart that Marchetta isn’t well known in North America, as I gather she’s quite famous in her native Australia. Her Lumatere Chronicles are just gorgeous. Finnikin of the Rock is one of those books that I can’t wait to read to my own kids (or nieces and nephews, etc.). And just when I thought she’d perfected her craft, along came Froi of the Exiles, which was somehow even better.

I think I’ve already established in this list my obsession with Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, as well as her Highland romances (which tie together with the Fever world in some fun ways). It has been a lot of fun to get to know her as an author! KMM, bringing you the sexy times, all the time.

I was also fairly late to the John Green game, introduced to The Fault In Our Stars in the summer by my dear friend and fellow book-worm, Megan. I have a feeling the whole course of our friendship was leading to the fateful moment that she placed it in my hands. Shortly thereafter, I made it my mission to read all of his other novels as well, of which Paper Towns was a distinct favourite. Well done, Meg. You’ve made me a Nerdfighter. DFTBA (you never do).

And, of course, Sarah Rees Brennan has been a great discovery, not just for her wonderful novels but also because of her awesome Internet presence. She’s super into communicating with her readers, and also writes these amazing Gothic novel and lady-sleuth parodies. A+ authoressing, lady!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you:

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. While I’m certainly a reader of modern fiction, The Sisters Brothers is a western in the truest sense of the word – not spaghetti, not romantic, just harsh and hard and painful. I took a chance on it, and I’m really glad about that. It’s a really striking book. Highly recommended.

8. Most thrilling, un-put-down-able book in 2012:

Hmm! I’m really not sure. I’m tempted to say Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, because I was so looking forward to it, but when I started to read it I was stuck on a trans-Atlantic flight with several crying babies, and then upon arrival in England became promptly ill. Suffice to say, there wasn’t much to do BUT read. However, I think I’m going to edge more towards Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I remember having that insatiable need to read it all in one sitting, which I did, much to the detriment of my productivity at work the next day. Logic never holds trumps in matters of the heart.

9. Book you read in 2012 that you are most likely to reread next year:

I wrote a post recently about books that I’m looking forward to reading in 2013, and a full seven of the eight were installments in series. Now, I’m one of those people who would read all of the Harry Potter books in order right before the newest one came out (it was a hell of a commitment when The Deathly Hallows was finally released). This isn’t just keenness – I have a godawful memory, and I often find myself completely lost in the second or third book of a series unless I remind myself of what happened in the first one. Thus, it stands to reason that I’ll be rereading all of the following:

Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012:

It’s a tie! The honours are dually awarded to Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. It’s really unfortunate that they clash horribly…

Unspoken and Sisters Brothers covers

11. Most memorable character in 2012:

MacKayla Lane from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series; an explanation for my choice can be found here.

Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. As I wrote in a Top Ten Tuesday post a few months ago:

Katsa’s job description is to quite literally kick ass – she’s an enforcer for her cousin, King Randa of the Middluns, because she is a preternaturally gifted killer. But the best thing about Katsa is that she actively seeks to dispel the notion that her gift is in any way a good thing. She is appalled by the acts that she is forced to commit – but it’s only when she begins to question the nature of her actions, not just their morals, that she really learns what her gift means. While she lets herself be swept away by the handsome prince (a weakness that I praised Evanjalin for resisting, above), it’s the right choice – she is willing to remove the blockades that she has put up over the years. Katsa is willing to change. I can’t fault that.

Jenny Lawson from her own memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly-True Memoir). It feels odd to choose a real, live person, but after reading LPTNH, I just want to hug the woman. And then buy her a lot of tequila shots.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012:

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. From my review of the book on Goodreads:

From the opening scenes of Paris during the Nazi occupation through the superbly told back story, Esi Edugyan creates a rich and vibrant tone that might be compared to the best jazz – deep and full, and at the same time brassy and abrasive. I was amazed by her ability to describe music, so well that I could hear it. The narrative voice of the main character, Sid, is gorgeously vivid.

I won’t go on, but to say that this is a book that needs to be read – no, devoured. As Sid says, “There’s all sorts of ways to live, Chip. Some of them you give a lot. Some of them you take a lot. Art, jazz, it was a kind of taking. You take from the audience, you take from yourself.” Half Blood Blues will take from you, but it gives back, too. It’s big and beautiful and familiar but also otherworldy and heartbreaking. In other words, perfect.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012:

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. This feels like an odd choice. I certainly enjoyed the book – it was really funny; Moran’s had a weird life and I loved getting that peek into it that good memoirs create – but I think this was more a fact of timing. Over the past year, I’ve been paying more and more attention to my role as a feminist in the world. It’s been a pretty bad few years for ladies – Toronto police and, indeed, the niece of our own mayor brought slut-shaming to national attention; a rash of sexual assaults in downtown Toronto kept women inside this summer; the debate over abortion was brought back to the national Parliament after over 40 years of decriminalization. These things weigh heavy on the shoulders of all women, but this year was the first year that I was really paying attention. And Moran’s memoir, cunningly titled for maximum controversy, tapped into my own interest in the state of women’s rights. Not to say that Moran’s brand of feminism is my own – far from it! But I think that it is valuable to consider her perspective, as it was for Moran to consider Germaine Greer’s as she was realizing the same things that I am now. Namely, that being a lady is amazing, but it’s not always easy. For a whole lot of reasons, this book really stuck with me in 2012.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2012 to finally read:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett! See my rationale, above.

Also Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I was never forced to read it in high school, and for that I thank the powers that be (aka the Durham District School Board) – I would have detested it. You can read my review of it here.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2012:

From The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (describing transcontinental tourist Twoflower):

Let’s just say that if complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards!’

From Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (describing the fallen angel Crowley):

An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.

From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (stated as fact by Ford Prefect):

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012:

Shortest: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (157 pages). (Really great, despite the brevity!).

Longest: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (1178 pages). (Jesus God, man, do I look like I have that kind of time?!). (Yes. Yes I do).

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I finished it at 2am and had to call the friend who’d given it to me right away. Also pretty much all of Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, but as I mentioned above, I was sick and in England when I read it – alas, I was doomed to suffer my boyfriend’s eye-rolls as I excitedly recapped the plot for him. And, of course, the ending of Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, which I then forced dear friend Megan to read just so I COULD have someone to talk to about it. Such is the nature of our friendship.

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2012:

Eugh, how do I choose?! Mac and Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Matthew and Diana from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, 95% of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin? Eternal enemies but reluctant friends, the angels Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens? What about the minor relationships, like Raff and Bann in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Bitterblue? Or the ones that pissed me right off, like Will and Tessa in The Infernal Devices? There are far too many to choose from. Basically, all of the books that I loved in the past year are founded on amazing relationships. I leave it in your hands.

19. Favorite book you read in 2012 from an author you read previously:

I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan for many years, but I hadn’t read Good Omens before this past May. He wins, as is his wont. Though I should acknowledge that I’d never read Terry Pratchett before Good Omens, so this might be half a cheat.

20. Best book you read that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, which was recommended by my dear school chum Jaclyn Derlatka (a description that makes her sound like the Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley, which would be amazing. Alas.)

Looking Ahead…

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2012 but will be your number 1 priority in 2013:

The Diviners by Libba Bray. (Confession: I started it on December 30th and finished it today, so check this one off the list!)

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2013:

Untold by SRB. Are you surprised? Also The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013:

I’d really like to move over to my own domain. I love WordPress as a platform but using the .com version, it’s somewhat constricted in terms of being able to construct this site the way I’d like it to be. Thus, I’d like to buy my own domain and get myself onto the .org side of WordPress, where I can get my fingers on the code.

I’ve also set a new reading challenge on Goodreads of 150 books for 2013. This year, I have no pesky Master’s degree coursework to get in the way!

Thanks for stopping by, and if you made it all the way through, double-thanks with chocolate icing! Have a happy, healthy, and book-filled 2013!

Author: Sara Allain

Just a lady, you know?

3 thoughts on “2012 End of Year Book Survey

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed A Monster Calls! It was one of my favourite books of 2012. I real Unspoken as well last year, but it was kind of a let down for me. I was expecting it to be a lot more than it was. Maybe I’ll enjoy Untold better. I have two of Melina Marchetta’s books and I can’t wait to get started on them. Wonderful Book Survey Sara :).

    • Hype is a dangerous beast! I read it right when it came out, before I’d heard much about it – and so I went in completely unprepared. And I was really surprised and happy and loved it. But yeah, I felt the same way about Shadowfell – I’d been told it was great, and then it just fell flat. C’est la vie!

      I keep looking for Marchetta at my local indie bookstore but, alas, she seems to be relatively obscure here :( I’ll probably break down and just order the three Lumatere Chronicles from Chapters when the next one comes out, though!

      Thanks for stopping by, Savindi!

  2. Pingback: Isn’t It Romantic: Top Ten Tuesday | Love Letters

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