Nota Bene: This is a LONG and graphic heavy post, so be forewarned.
Hey guys, I’m here again for the second part of my Favorite Reads of 2012, this time showcasing some books under some very interesting superlative titles. If you missed the first part of my favorite reads, you can find that post here. I figured my first post of the new year would be one that closes the deal on 2012.
Okay, so here’s how this will work. I have a list of superlatives among Young Adult Fiction, Adult Fiction, and Non-Fiction titles I’ve read in the past year. Now, unlike the first post, most of these are pertaining to books that I read or started to read in 2012, regardless of publishing date. So this is a bit of a free-for-all. Some of these weren’t featured on “Favorite Reads” of the last post, so this is kind of a chance for some other books to shine under some interesting categories. I hope you enjoy them, and all the best wishes in the new year. See you guys in 2013!
Best Audiobook Narrator – Male:
This is a difficult one because I’m having to choose one for adult fiction and one for young adult fiction as far as the choices go, and usually with the title of “Best Audiobook Narrator” of this past year, I’m thinking of my own personal favorites. There were so many that I had the chance to peruse this year, so I’m going to choose two and explain why, as I will with the other categories as applicable.
For adult fiction, specifically in the sci-fi/fantasy category, I’m going to give it to Wil Wheaton for “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Wheaton’s narration was one of the reasons why I loved “Ready Player One” as much as a I did. Wheaton provided a great sense of humor alongside a nice pacing through the game dystopian realm, and I couldn’t help but think he was a great match for voicing the young protagonist, Parzival.
There were so many favorite male audiobook narrators for YA I could’ve chosen from the books I read in this past year – like McCleod Andrews, Nick Poedhl, Daniel Passer (who narrated “The Rules of Survival” by Nancy Werlin. I just read that book this past year) among others. But I’m going to give this one to Josh Hurley, who narrated the novella “Summer Crossing” by Julie Kagawa, part of the YA series “The Iron Fey”. Hurley’s narration was such a perfect fit for Puck and I couldn’t help but laugh through the narration how the personality projected in the reading leapt out to me.
Best Audiobook Narrator – Female:
For adult fiction, this was a difficult pick because…I read a LOT of audiobooks this year, and there were many female narrators, but a lot of them counted under the YA heading, not adult. So I basically had to comb through my reading list and pick out which were adult titles and decide the one that stood out to me the most. All of them were good, and that made it even harder for me to choose. Ultimately, I ended up choosing Elizabeth Jasicki for Courtney Milan’s “Trial By Desire”, which I ended up reading for the first time this past year. I thought her portrayal of Lady Kathleen was spot on, and her portrayal of the rest of the charming cast was also noteworthy to boot.
For Young Adult fiction, this was a difficult pick because there were so many to choose from. Libba Bray for “Beauty Queens” was hands down one of my favorite narrations for the year. I held my sides laughing for goodness knows how long during the read. There were so many parts that I loved in the humorous portrayal of this work, from the intermittent commercials to Bray’s portrayal of Miss Texas’s accent to even the hot pirates that ended up stranded on the island as well. It was a flawless delivery, and I loved every moment of it.
I’m going to give an honorary mention in YA to Channie Waites for narrating Justine Larabalestier’s “Liar”, which I also read for the first time this year. Waites had the caliber of narration that struck me speechless, because she puts so much energy and vibrance into the performance, and really captures the character to a full stop. Even if you have mixed feelings about the unreliable narrator that the young protagonist turns out to be, Waites draws you into the character and doesn’t let go for a single minute. I thought her portrayal was stellar.
Some of you aren’t going to be surprised by my choice for this, but I’m choosing Craig Ferguson’s “American on Purpose” – which I read for the first time this past year. Between Ferguson’s open, honest account of his struggles to fame and coming to America to his humorous asides, I loved so much about this biography. I would also count it, certainly, among my favorite audiobook reads of the past year. As a special mention: I also enjoyed Kim Washburn’s biography of Dominque Dawes in “Heart of a Champion: The Dominque Dawes Story.” Washburn’s narrative is oriented towards YA and younger audiences, as well as gives an inspiring look at Dawes’ journey through the Olympics and her work in the public spectrum beyond that.
This was easy for me to choose because I loved these books to pieces, and I’m choosing four for good measure, even though one of them wasn’t published yet in 2012 (I received it as an ARC copy to read).
I don’t think I have to say much more about Elle and Dan from Megan Hart’s “Dirty”. I think you guys got enough of that in my reviews and reflections on the novel, but I do feel that it was one of the strongest relationships I’ve read in an adult fiction title, specifically in the erotic romance genre. They’re a couple with respective flaws that come to light as the novel goes on, and ultimately, the way that Dan and Elle both grow into the relationship was rewarding to watch.
For Young Adult, I had a lot of books to choose from. So much that I felt I had to choose three. The first was Bria and Rowan from “Wanderlove” – OMG, their relationship was too cute
and yes I have a character crush on Rowan, leave me alone. I think part of what made the novel stand out so much to me was the chemistry between these two characters and how they developed through the work. Both of their respective personalities went beyond the page and watching them go through those respective ups and downs was well worth the journey, even as much as the physical journey they took and the development of a strong sense of place in the novel.
My second pick would be Thomas McKee and Tara Finke from Melina Marchetta’s “The Piper’s Son”, because it’s not so much the fact that I thought their relationship was the “OMG Squee!” worthy type, but rather it was rewarding to watch them go through some very rough spells, and then turn out the way it did with the kind of sweetness and recollect that came out of this novel. I’d even choose Georgie’s respective relationship as a noteworthy one in this novel as well.
My third pick would be Rudy and Teeth from Hannah Moskowitz’s “Teeth” – which is set for release this year. This is a complicated pick, because when I choose this novel as representative of “Best Couple” , this book has a more complex dimension to it than just being of a romantic typing or something of that nature. Rudy and Teeth have great chemistry and a great camaraderie – you can’t easily put a finger on defining it, but it’s shown in such a vivid way. I couldn’t look away from their relationship with each other. Sometimes it’s humorous and sometimes it’s heartbreaking (and I’ll admit I did cry in the aftermath of this novel, for more reasons than one.)
Best Food for Thought Reads:
This is my way of honoring a few of the Non-Fiction books that I had the opportunity to read in 2012. Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” was a beautiful examination into introversion in our society and I loved so much about it. “Inside the Olympics” is my pick for “food for thought” non-fiction in the Middle Grade/YA spectrum, because it gives a wonderful, easy to glance overview of the history of the Olympics and some of its events.
Book that Made Me Weep Buckets in 2012:
Hannah Moskowitz’s “Teeth”:
I still haven’t recovered. Considering I was up 4ish-5ish in the morning reading this and I couldn’t help but be sad considering some of the rough situations the characters go through in this book. You guys should know I’m not an easy weeper when it comes to books, but if the subject matter hits me hard, then it really hits me. This book was no exception to that.
This is self explanatory. Look at some of the pretty covers of books I’ve read (or started to read) this past year – 20 in total.
Favorite Horror (YA):
Horror’s not a very common genre in YA that’s spotlighted, so that’s why I wanted to give attention to it in my superlatives. Two titles I’ve chosen from my reads in 2012: Patti Larsen’s “Run”, which is the harrowing start of a series where a young man (Reid) is on the run from mysterious creatures that prey upon those kidnapped like him. This had me on the edge of my seat reading in this past year, and I really enjoyed it (no doubt will read the rest of the series this year when I can). The other is Kendare Blake’s “Anna Dressed in Blood” – I didn’t think of it as particularly horrifying, but it definitely had enough creep factor and wonderful imagery that I like in good ghost stories.
Favorite Series of 2012:
So the series that I actually ended up having the most fun reading in this past year (I still have yet to complete the very last book, but I’m still counting it) is actually a YA work: E. Lockhart’s “Ruby Oliver” series. I compulsively read “The Boyfriend List”, “The Boy Book” and “The Treasure Map of Boys” in a close stretch. It’s one of those series that does such a great job drawing its characters and is quite funny, charming, and features a heroine with a strong outlook and voice.
Mira Grant’s “Blackout” was my longest read of the past year, clocking in at 659 pages. To be honest, it really didn’t feel like that much reading it, but I guess with how I devoured this, it went quicker than I thought. I really enjoyed it and thought it a great end to the “Newsflesh” trilogy.
Miss Congeniality (YA):
Chloe Camden from “Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe”: Wonderfully charming, well-meaning, yet a bit on the ditzy side, Chloe made an impression on me that I couldn’t forget among my young adult reads for this past year. I actually really enjoyed this novel far more than I thought I would, and it was in part for Chloe’s extroversion and willingness to jump into her radio gig. She weathers some hard lessons, but ultimately, it all works out in the end.
Most Disappointing Reads of 2012:
This is probably the not so “super” of the superlatives I’m naming in this list, but I bet everyone has a book or something they’re looking forward to that they either loved the cover or blurb or something about the book going into it only to find out it was nothing like the book they thought it was going to be. Or they read a book that they absolutely despised to its barest bones. So why not have a category for this?
Some could’ve turned out a lot better than what they did, respectively. Others of them I think just completely missed the mark in their respective genre – either for the thematic they were going for, or in the messages they sent in the narrative.
I’m just going to go in the order of what books I presented the images for in this post and explain the reason why each selection in this list was disappointing for me (or downright offensive).
“Death and the Girl Next Door” by Darynda Jones – I strongly think that this could’ve been a better book than what it was, and the premise actually seemed very interesting to boot. I don’t put it against Jones really, even considering this was my first read from her and her first foray into the YA genre – I still want to read her work from here on out. But the long and short of why this was disappointing to me was because it heavily relied on cliche after cliche of the YA paranormal genre. It started off humorous, but then devolved into a measure where I think it was trying too hard to be too many things and ultimately didn’t have much to cling to. I had high expectations of this particular work, but unfortunately it didn’t deliver.
“When You Were Mine” by Rebecca Serle – YA retellings are usually right up my alley. I think the premise of having Romeo and Juliet told from Rosalynd/Rose’s perspective could’ve been something brilliant. Instead, I have never, ever seen so much slut shaming and ostracizing of a female character in a YA book in my reading pursuits. It’s very disconcerting, and feeds into a lot of cliches and mixed messages that I think aren’t helpful to its respective audience. Sure, it has a few redeeming factors like Rose coping with loss and having to move on from that, but it’s a little too late to redeem the story from before.
“League of Strays” by L.B. Schulman: I actually kind of liked the cover of this book because it shows precisely what it’s supposed to convey from the blurb: a girl who falls under the dangerous and charismatic charm of a group leader up to no good. It shows the function of a cult, and I remember when reading it that I knew what it was trying to convey. But unfortunately, this book gets a lot of things wrong – flat characters, mixed messages on teen bullying, championing “revenge” bullying, attempts to romanticize a dangerous relationship, two scenes of torment of a gay (or insinuated gay) character that I think could’ve had much better handling than what it was, and even the horrific scene of the leading character (Charlotte) heckling and denouncing a female victim. I couldn’t get behind this book for those several reasons among others.
“In Too Deep” by Amanda Grace: This is one of those books that I think could’ve been far more brilliant considering the level of depth of its premise – and it’s a noteworthy one in consideration. I really expected a lot from it and was excited to read it at first, but in the end, it left me feeling angry about the haphazard and underwhelming portrayal. It’s a bit of a morality play about a young woman caught in the crossfire of rumors following an encounter with a guy that goes horribly wrong, but isn’t what it seems. When the rumor mill has it that she was raped, she doesn’t knock it down, and events spiral into chaos around her high school and neighborhood. When she finally decides to tell the truth, things are already too far gone to repair. I didn’t like the portrayal of the issue of rape nor did I think there was very much coming to terms from the main character in this particular work.
“Kiss Crush Collide” by Christina Meredith – This book is what happens when you have a beautiful cover, interesting premise, heavy comparisons to other popular writers, but ultimately very underwhelming execution. The unlikable characters, tepid pacing, and unrealistic resolutions marred this particular work. It was one of the most disappointing reads I experienced in the past year.
“Entangled” by Nikki Jefford: This wasn’t a very good book at all, I’m sorry to say. It did so many things wrong, not just in the completely haphazard portrayal of multiple characters of color and their culture, but it was underwhelming for what the premise lent in its respective mystery and magic elements. Instead it settled for typical high school drama, girl on girl hating, horrible male love interest, and just an all around sketchy trainwreck with poor plotting and pacing. The premise was promising, and this was one of the only YA books that I knew of that touched on pranic healing (You could do SO MUCH interesting worldbuilding with that! Argh!) But alas, it never recovered nor lived up to its potential.
“Hanging by a Thread” by Sophie Littlefield: I think this is another title with a fascinating premise that just didn’t live up to its potential. I’ve read the author before and like her writing, but didn’t care for this particular title. A girl that can read articles of clothing and see their respective dark histories sounds awesome, right? But unfortunately with a bad boy LI who has no palpable chemistry to speak of with the main character is the main focus of this particular YA paranormal mystery. Not to mention the actual mystery has several contradicting points.
“Thoughtless” by S.C. Stephens: I’m not sure how this has three books, let alone one book to sustain it, but basically this is the story of a college-aged woman who cheats on her boyfriend and is a plodding, over-the-top melodramatic, troubling stretch to the falling out. Probably says something that the work was over 500 pages in my version.
“Beautiful Disaster” by Jamie McGuire: Another disappointing read for me in 2012, far too many things wrong with it to capture in this brief synopsis, so I’ll just point you to my review.
“Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls)” by Victoria Foyt – Terribly written, haphazard pacing, and manages to offend just about every racial minority group to a fine point. The sequel doesn’t seem to have much promise in being any less offensive. This has the honor of being the worst book I read in 2012 (quite possibly the worst book I’ve ever read), and I don’t mince words saying that.
If I think of any categories further I might be adding to this post, but these were the major ones that came to mind as I composed this post.