Tuesday, January 8, 2013

BEST OF 2012


GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Crown; June 2012)
I struggled with having such a popular book at the top of my list. When I looked back at my original review, and remembered why I loved this book so much in the first place, it became the obvious choice.  I'm sure the movie will ruin it.

BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES by Kristina McMorris (Kensington; February 2012)
I actually read this book at the very end of 2011, as it was published in the beginning of 2012, and *almost* forgotten from my Best Of 2012 list.  Kristina McMorris gave me everything I love about a Historical Fiction novel set during WWII - love, friendship, family, action, suspense - all delivered with beautiful writing.  I'm looking forward to more from this author!  (I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet after Scarlet Leaves...this was better!)

THE ART FORGER by B.A. Shapiro (Algonquin Books; October 2012)
The very last book I read in 2012 managed to win my heart and a place on my top ten.  At the time I'm writing this list, I haven't written my review for The Art Forger yet! Completely original and edgy, fast-paced and interesting. You will never look at Art the same way again!

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach (Little, Brown; September 2011)
Do you know how much I hate having two books with "The Art" in their titles next to one another in my list? Couldn't be avoided. A book that hit my "Didn't Read in 2011" list, yet it took a book club to get me to finally open it, and so glad I did.  Even though a love for baseball is not required, it certainly added an entire layer to my love for this novel. Heavily character driven, The Art of Fielding is dramatic and intimate.

DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay (Delacorte; January 2012)
Have you ever been to a book club meeting where you talk about the book for 15 minutes, and spend the rest of the time gossiping and drinking wine? (well, duh!)  Imagine my surprise when we discussed Defending Jacob for hours, leaving us little time for gossip (the wine was still there, of course)! There is so much to think about and sink your teeth into. The teenage son of a US Attorney is on trial for murder...did he do it? Told from the father's point of view, Defending Jacob will make you think!

HEMINGWAY'S GIRL by Erika Robuck (NAL Trade; September 2012)
 I loved this book so much. Robuck takes a character you think you know in Hemingway and presents her readers an unexpected portrait of him through someone else's eyes.  She will do just that with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in 2013's Call Me Zelda, one of the books I am most looking forward to this year!

WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple (Little, Brown; December 2012)
Another book I squeezed in before the end of the year, and oh I am so glad I did.  Quirky and fun, yet completely heartfelt, Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a breath of fresh air!  I'm not sure why, but what I expected to be a throw-away silly story ended up becoming smart and well written, while still not taking itself too seriously. 

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce (Random House, July 2012)
A regular guy sets out for a walk, and ends up taking the journey of a lifetime. He meets ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances. By the end of the book, Harold Fry finds his way into your heart, and you can't help cheering him on - laughing with him, crying with him.

CITY OF WOMEN by David R. Gillham (Amy Einhorn/Putnam; August 2012)
Dark and powerful, City of Women is unlike any WWII historical fiction novel  I have ever read. Sigrid Schröder is the wife of a German soldier, who is off at war. She, her mother-in-law, and the rest of the women have been left behind in Berlin, in a city where everyone has secrets and nothing is as it seems. Danger could be anywhere, yet this German woman must decide how much she is willing to risk in order to do the right thing.

THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty (Riverhead; June 2012)
This was one of those situations where the audiobook takes a story in black and white and turns it into a technicolor version of itself. Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern, in the 1920s accent we have grown to know and love on Downton Abbey, this book swept me away. Cora, the chaperone of the soon-to-be silent film star, Louise Brooks, accompanies her charge on a trip to New York City. Cora and Louise were not mother-and-daughter, nor were they friends, yet they held the most honest relationship either one of them would ever experience.

Honorable Mentions (published prior to 2012)

THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (Dutton; January 2012)
If any of my adult readers is looking to dip their toes into the Young Adult pool, allow me to push you off the high dive straight into the world of John Green.  If I combined my Adult and my Young Adult titles, let's just say John Green and Gillian Flynn would be having a tough battle - Gillian Flynn scares me, and John Green is a really nice guy, so I'm glad to have two lists.  Seriously, it's that good -  writing, character development, voice, humor, raw emotion, and dignity. This book knocked my socks off. 

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books; May 3, 2011)
I jumped right onto this bandwagon and haven't looked back!  The only reason I haven't read Insurgent, the second book, (which would probably be on this list right next to its original) is I want to re-read Divergent and I don't remember who has my copy.  So, hello friend of mine out there who has my book, can I have it back? Don't make me go all Dauntless on you!

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, September 2012)
What would a top 10 list be without Maggie Stiefvater?  I don't know how she does it! The first in a new series, THE RAVEN BOYS does not disappoint. No word on when the next book in the series is set to release. 

CARNIVAL OF SOULS by Melissa Marr (Harper Collins, September 2012)
I am new to Melissa Marr's books, and while all those I read this year were fantastic, Carnival of Souls was my favorite!  This new series from Melissa Marr is dark, complex and highly visual.  It's so complex that I will have to do a re-read when the sequel comes out - with James Marsters (BTVS's Spike) narrating the audiobook, I'm sure that I will do a thorough listen! 

SHELTER/SECONDS AWAY by Harlan Coben (Putnam Juv; September 2012)
Despite ongoing recommendations from fellow reader friends, it took Harlan Coben to come out with a YA series for me to climb on board this train. I'm so glad I did! The pages were flying as I couldn't read these books fast enough.  Mickey Bolitar is the nephew of one of Coben's famous Myron Bolitar, whom we see little of in this series so far. He has a small gang of friends, lovable misfits all.  Seconds Away is the second book in the series, and while I lost the review during the Sandy debacle of 2012, I will write it again and gush all over it.  

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by David Levithan and John Green (Dutton/Brilliance Audio; 2010)
Brilliant. If I had to choose my favorite audio of the year, this would be it.  It was an experience. There is no other way one should experience this book. Two characters share the same name, and their story is delivered from two points of view, two different authors, and two narrators. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered, "I appreciate you, Tiny Cooper!" 

ASHEN WINTER (Ashfall #2) by Mike Mullin (Tanglewood Press; October 2012)
A supervolcano all on its own, I tore through Ashen Winter in just under two days - I could not put it down.  There is no build up, you have to put your seatbelt on from the first page, and prepare yourself for non-stop action and suspense.  Mike Mullin is only torturing his readers a little by making us wait until 2014 for the final book in the trilogy, Sunrise, but something tells me it will be big and worth the wait!

DUSTLANDS: #1: BLOOD RED ROAD/#2: REBEL HEART by Moira Young (Margaret K. McElderry Books; October 2012)
Blood Red Road, the first book in Moira Young's Dustlands series, was amazing. It was the very first book I read in 2012, and it stuck with me all year. What was even more amazing was that she managed such an exciting sequel with Rebel Heart. Not an easy feat, when I had more than one YA series fall off the sequel cliff this year.

BEAUTIFUL CHAOS (BEAUTIFUL CREATURES #3) By Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia (Little, Brown; October 2011)
Usually the third book in a series is the kiss of death for me and sends me sulking back to the adult section of my bookstore. Not so with Beautiful Creatures - it just keeps getting better!  This dynamic duo of writers has the secret formula and a pack of dogs guarding it.  The star-studded cast of the Beautiful Creatures movie is coming to the big screen on February 13, 2013, and looks, dare I say, really really good.

**After writing up this list, I noticed a similarity in many of my top 10 YA books - kick ass female protagonists.  Well done, authors!  Bravo!!!!


WONDER by R.J. Palacio (Knopf; February 2012)
If you read nothing else from my list, no matter your age, read this book. Then, I want you to pass it to someone else and ask them to read it. Few books in my life have effected me so deeply or changed me in a significant way.  Wonder is one of those books. 

NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf; 1989)
I have not officially reviewed this book, because how does one review a classic? . I actually had the pleasure of reading this book aloud with my son's fifth grade class. Not only is this a wonderful book, but to discover it along side children and point out the wonderful little details that Lois Lowry adds to her books, what an experience! 

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2011)
Two characters. 50 years apart. Both deaf. The one character's story is told through a series of gorgeous pictures for which Brian Selznick is famous. The other story is told with text. Then the two stories come together and what happens next is pure magic. My 10 year old son read this book first and told me I had to read it - he gets his good taste from his mom! 

GUYS READ: SPORTS PAGES (Walden Pond Press, July 2012) Edited by Jon Sciescka
Home Run! Sports Pages is series of short stories written by the greatest modern middle grade writers out there, as well as a few real-life sports heroes. Guys Read books are the perfect format for middle graders.  My son would pick it up, read a short story, put it down for a while until he had another quiet moment to read another. Sports Pages is my personal favorite so far! For me, I appreciated the lessons on teamwork, perseverance, integrity, and respect. For the kids - no pressure, pure fun, and lots of laughs! 

LIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books; August 2012)
I don't know how she does it, but Rebecca Stead is magic. She shows us that no one is always who they seem, and a little faith and courage go a long way. Boys, girls, parents, teachers, everyone will love Liar and Spy. 

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM by Christopher Healy (Walden Pond Press; May 2012)
Boys get ready, the princes get their day to shine! Or at least, that's their intention as they set off on their hilarious quest, teaming up without their respective princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty).  I could imagine the animation, and the music, in my head as I read this clever book from Christopher Healy. The second book in the series is coming in April 2013.  Fox Animation secured the movie rights...I wonder if they need me to consult? hmm.

A WRINKLE IN TIME - GRAPHIC NOVEL by Madeleine L'Engle; Ill by Hope Larson (Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux; October 2012)
Die hard fans need not apply. Instead, for those middle graders who want to love all over A Wrinkle In Time the way their classmates do, but they're just not "getting it" the graphic novel comes to the rescue!  We found the graphic novel to be, dare I say, a better option for us. The illustrations were fantastic, the truth to the original story was there, and it's accessible in a way the original might not be for some kids. We're also big graphic novel fans, which might have something to do with it.  Well done, Hope Larson!

CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner (Scholastic; July 2012)
Fun middle grade book for boys and girls!  Action, adventure, patriotism, friendship, and leaves you wanting for more, Capture The Flag serves up a wonderful option for mini mystery fans.  

THE FOURTH STALL, PART II by Chris Rylander (Walden Pond Press; February 2012)
The second book was even better than the first (and we loved the first!).  The Fourth Stall is what every parent with sons dreams of - a boy book. Mac, along with pal Vince, runs a business out of the fourth stall of the boys bathroom - test questions, bully intercept, hall passes, you name it.  I can remember back in 2010, when I first read the blurb of THE FOURTH STALL, I knew I had to get my hands on it.  It sounded funny and smart, and something my son was going to love.  Right on the money, a fantastic series!  The third book is due February 5, 2013.

This list would not be possible  if not for the generosity of the many publishers and authors who have entrusted me with their titles.

I am still completely blown away that people actually read my blog, and that my list of readers continues to grow each month.  I am both honored and humbled when you send me an e-mail, or stop me on the street, just to tell me that you liked a review I wrote or a recommendation I gave.  

Thank you and Happy Reading!
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