Best/Worst of 2012 and Other Stuffs

I debated writing one of these year-end post deals, especially given it’s now no longer the year-end after all. It’s obvious I’ve not kept up a very steady blogging schedule around here this past year. Lots of things contributed to that decline in 2012, and it took me till the end of the year almost before realizing what some of them were. And then some well-meaning blogging friends directly pointed out that I’m not blogging as much, and instead of feeling embarrassed about it or ashamed of myself, I knew it was better to feel as if this was OK. A less-than-thrilling part of blogging can be the undercurrent of competition. Some of us are better at keeping up a rigorous, daily schedule and others, myself probably pretty close to the top, not so much. I just couldn’t, some of that being things that needed my attention at home, a major home renovation, and then a health revelation that thankfully I have now addressed and will hopefully contribute towards me having  a much better 2013. Cheers and all that.

And dammit, sometimes I just want to read read read and not interrupt that to type it all out here. So there may still be lulls. But that’s OK. Blogging is not about competition, for me it’s very much about being an outlet. That means it goes at my pace and if that pace slows to a sluggish crawl, so be it. (This is all directed at myself, you realize. I realized long ago how I feel about this place is a direct reflection of whatever I need to work out. Mostly I just want to keep it all as fun as possible.)

And now, enough of that sappy shit. Let’s look first at what sucked the big ones. I think I prefer to get those out of the way first this time.

I invested a lot of time in this series, beginning with several books in the series preceding it. The beginnings of this Noble Dead Saga, part 2, have been abysmally dull and disappointing. Epic fantasy takes a lot of time to get into and establish a foothold with, so it’s a bit more than frustrating when it lacks luster. I ranted about it more here.

I’d been looking forward to this book for a while, and I ended up committing the gravest of reader sins: turns out I like the movie better than the book. Great world, great concept, horribly done characters.

There were a number of other droll, lifeless reads that populated my DNF pile. For a time, in retaliation, I went through a pile of Secrets anthology ebooks because my brain needed some candy after trying to get through so many DNF-ers. That was a whole month of brain candy. Glad I made it out of that fog eventually!

Thankfully, 2012 actually started off with a reading bang with Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire, the first in her recently new InCryptid urban fantasy series. I fell almost instantly in love with Verity Price and her secret world of monsters and talking, cult-driven clan of Aeslin mice, for whom she is their priestess. It’s tons of UF fun and Verity is smart, capable and comes packed with plenty of interesting side characters and cool plots.

Then, my little chicklets, I had the unusual pleasure of reading Angelfall by Susan Ee, the much-celebrated and short book about angels, the End of the World as We Know It and all that apocalyptic shiznet. And it. was. GOOD. So good that the author really, really , really needs to – like soon – get with it and publish the second book. Because it is our preciousss and we want to continue while we still feel the preciousss for it. You can read further on it in my discussion with fellow blogger and author extraordinaire, Katiebabs.

And THEN, party people, it wasn’t until about three months later that I read the next book that rocked my fuzzy socks, and that was Howl’s Moving Castle by the late Diana Wynne Jones. This was one of those reads that reaffirmed for me that book reading magic is still alive and well for me. It was like coming home to everything I love about reading, like it was this living entity that opened its arms and took me in with all the warmth and welcome I look for in a book.

The first big romantic hit for me came in May with this gem of a self-published title by the always satisfying Sarah Mayberry. If ever you’re in the need for a gut-punching, sure-fire romance that is passionate and emotionally satisfying, Mayberry is always the way to go. This was the sequel to Hot Island Nights that Harlequin publishing apparently didn’t want, and more’s the pity for them. I actually enjoyed this sequel much more than its predecessor.

Jumping ahead to December, I had the pleasure of reading another Mayberry romance, but this time for entirely different reasons. This time, the gut-punching was a little more emotionally wringing. I can’t remember the last time I cried so much or so hard for a couple, wanting a Happily Ever After for them. Mayberry touches on a potentially taboo romance angle in this one and it was one of those can’t-look-away-until-done reads. God I love a good, satisfying sob fest of a romance sometimes!

I didn’t ever get a chance to review this one, but this second installment in Harper’s Clockwork Empire steampunk series did not disappoint. Though at first it seemed to take a bit to really get going, soon into it I was enjoying myself as much as I had been with the first. This series is still very much a great choice for trying out the current steampunk trend as one that does it right.

As we all know, the YA genre is an ever burgeoning and diverse group, but let’s face it – I’m picky as shit and finding a YA book that speaks to me is as hard as it is in any other genre. I was utterly delighted by this gem of a book and was finally spurred to give it a go thanks to Dear Author Jane, who called it very “woman empowering”. I felt it was all that and more, with an overweight heroine that, as a young teenager, must not only deal with the burden of a god stone in her navel, marking her as one of the few mysterious chosen, but also with the hardships of ruling an entire country on the brink of war. And it was with complete crushing reader agony that I didn’t enjoy the sequel, The Crown of Embers. This was due in large part, rather surprisingly, to the disappointing romantic development in the sequel. In many ways, all that empowerment the heroine worked so hard for in book one felt eclipsed by a rather silly and unjustified (and suddenly very uncharacteristic) reaction by her romantic counterpart. Apparently I never got to officially review GoFaT either, but I talked about it in my mid-year roundup, too.

And as has been the case for a while now here at Lurv, Seanan McGuire’s second entry for 2012 has made it on the the Best Of list again with her sixth October Daye book, Ashes of Honor. This quickly over the years hurled its way into my top favorite series and it still shows no signs of abating, for which I am eternally grateful. I absolutely love the plots to these fae-driven urban fantasies, but fans of the series will especially love the particular subplot involving Toby and another prominent character we’ve had our eyes on for some time now. Meow, folks – meeoooow. Review here.

My last true gem of the year was a huge surprise for me because it comes at the pen of the infamous Stephenie Meyer. I won’t lie – I read the Twilight series (except for the second half of that awful Breaking Dawn, blech) and I enjoyed it for the most part as purely fun, mindless entertainment. And I really didn’t give the author any credit for being able to write or truly engage me, because let’s face it, there wasn’t all that much to actually engage in the Twilight books. There was plenty to gape at, but not much to really draw me in emotionally.

The Host, however, was a completely different scenario. It’s really unlike anything I’ve read before and in that, it’s uniqueness, it was especially endearing to me. I grew to care for the alien entity called Wanderer so much that it was more than a little surprising. Meyer weaves an impossible tangle with this book and at the same time makes it work. There were some horrific and painful things, while some were euphorically joyful. There was grief and agony and happiness. The tears! Oh  man, the tears I shed. It was one of the BEST roller coaster rides I’ve ever been on with a book. And that’s why I can’t decide if this or Howl’s Moving Castle is my most favorite read of 2012 – so I think we have a tie!

Honorable Mentions & Other Stuffs

The year was also filled with several Honorable Mentions that, while not perfect reads for me, were well worth the effort and certainly made my reading year more enjoyable.

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; The Princess Bride by William Goldman; The Hobbit by JR.R. Tolkien – all of these were part of my Year of the Fantasy Classic reading challenge and all were a pleasure to read in their own ways.

2. A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison – for the first time in the series’ history, I didn’t give one of its installments a perfect score. I am still a little weirded out by this, BUT I can’t deny that I still love the series to death and look forward to the next one – out very soon yay – and hope that I get back to that wonderful place these books have always taken me.

3. Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce was another one of those wildly unique YA reads and it is a darn shame I never got around to reviewing it. At times its pace was seriously lagging, and this kept it from being one of my Best Of reads, but I still highly recommend it if you’re looking for something decidedly different in YA fantasy. It is so rich and wonderful and just – unique!

4. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – I was really conflicted over this one because I absolutely loathed with the force of a hundred suns the ending. And at times the book takes its sweet ass time getting anywhere. And there were other issues, but man did it stick with me. And it haunted me. And I tried to like the sequels but they were just awful for me and some of the worst reads for me this year. But man, that book one, it’s a doozy!

5. Firelight and Moonglow by Kristen Callihan – I didn’t get a chance to review these either, but wowzas, this is what the PNR genre has been needing for a while now. Callihan’s work feels so refreshing for me in a genre that had become a little stilted. I am looking forward to the next, Winterblaze, which is coming soon in February.

6. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young – What a cracktastic read. This one was much hyped this past year and thankfully I and the hype got along pretty good. I thought the drama was a little overdone at times and the “hero” a little too possessive but nonetheless I really enjoyed it. It was incredibly sexy.

7. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – now this was quite a surprise. Hubby and I finally watched the Disney-produced film version, simply called John Carter, in 2012 and I had downloaded the free ebook (his work is old enough to now be in the public domain and he is also famous for penning the Tarzan books) way before that, intending to read it before the movie. Thankfully, this is one of those books-to-movies where I really liked both. The movie’s plot varies a lot from the book, but they got the meat of it from the book for sure. The book is really long-winded in some places, as most older novels of its time seem to be, but I really enjoyed it anyway because of the very studied way John Carter observes his time on Mars. I absolutely love world building in which the author explores how different cultures live and I felt like Burroughs did a fabulous job with it in A Princess of Mars, especially the green folk. Interestingly enough, Disney chose to give the prominent female characters a little more agency, though Burroughs is not remiss in addressing the importance of females on Mars, too, he’s just not as free with enabling the heroine to be as self reliant as the movie does. Overall, an immensely enjoyable story. Burroughs was clearly a master.

8. Magic Gifts and Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews – I was one of the few that was pretty disappointed to hear that there would be no new Kate Daniels book in 2012, but rather a spinoff featuring her best friend Andrea instead. I bought Gunmetal Magic anyway and had also downloaded the short story coinciding with it, Magic Gifts, when the authors generously offered it for free on their site. I must say that the short story is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. It’s longer than I was expecting – always  nice – and it felt just about as satisfying as reading  full length Daniels book. The plot was another exceptional spin of a different folklore and myths, something the authors seem to get better and better at every time. Kate and Curran were awesome to read together again.

And while I can’t say I enjoyed Gunmetal Magic the same amount (I hope to review it soon), I will admit that parts of it surprised me in a good way. The parts where it focuses on Andrea’s development due to her abusive background were heartbreaking, but also the most genuine and well done part of the book. At times I felt like she read too much like Kate with her quips and actions and how she generally handles dangerous situations, but when it swung back to her dealing with that horrific past, it was a golden kind of read.

And that is pretty much all I’ve got to say about 2012! As far as 2013’s concerned, I just hope to gt back to reviewing more with this place, providing some of the content I used to and maybe hosting some giveaways to get rd of the still mountainous pile of books I’ve got. They’re older books now (Gasp, like two or so years old – will anyone still want them? Heehee.), but surely they can still make someone happy. Other than that, thanks for hanging in there with me, folks! Here’s to happy reading in 2013!

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    • Angie, be afraid of the power of Within Reach! It will make you its own!

      And yes to more Toby! Good choice. ;D

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