Welcome to my Favourite 2012 Reads post. Since I read over 112 books this year and about a quarter of those weren’t from 2012, I decided to split my lists in a Favourite 2012 Reads section, which looks at the books published before 2012, a Favourite Debuts 2012, as I’ve read a fair number of those this year, and a Favourite Books 2012 post, which looks at the top ten books published in 2012 I read this year.
Like last year, I discovered a ton of new authors to love and there were some awesome sequels in series I’d already been following. Where last year I had a lot of new-to-me authors on this ‘reads published prior to the current year’-list, this year the balance is about half and half. This leaves me with a similar problem to last year, as there are some backlists I really want to check out or I’m really behind on the series. But in other cases I managed to (almost) completely catch up, so I really shouldn’t whine! Let’s see what made the cut for my favourite 2012 Reads.
10. Helen Grant – The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
I fell in love with Helen Grant’s writing after reading The Glass Demon. After reading that one I searched out and read her other two novels, Wish Me Dead and her debut, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. I adored its narrator, Pia and really enjoyed the story and the themes Grant explored. As I put it in the conclusion of my review: “The mystery in The Vanishing of Katharina Linden was well done – at some point I had my suspicions as to the true culprit but didn’t want to believe it – but at the same time was almost secondary in the narrative to the emotional consequences of the events of the book. The book is a strong debut, but having read Grant’s following novels you can see how she’s grown in her confidence as writer.” I’m looking forward to see how Grant’s writing has developed in her next book, Silent Saturday.
9. Trudi Canavan – The Magician’s Apprentice
At the start of this year I began a reread project of Trudi Canavan’s books where I reread the books I’d already read and finally read the ones languishing on my shelves. While I enjoyed the entire project, my absolute favourite of all the Canavan books I read was The Magician’s Apprentice. I loved the exploration of Kyralian history and the portrayal of women in this book. From my review: “In Tessia and her female friends and Stara and her circle of friends Canavan creates a strong example of female strength and empowerment, through their sheer determination not to be put in the places society, whether Kyralian or Sachakan, deems fit for them.” There are two further books in the Kyralia sequence, The Rogue and The Traitor Queen, which I hope to read in 2013.
8. Sarah Dunant – In the Company of the Courtesan
To start off my resolution to read more historical fiction right, in January I read Sarah Dunant’s In the Company of the Courtesan. Dunant was a writer I’d heard praised before and the subject and setting of the novel intrigued me. What I hadn’t expected was the complexity and the bold narrative choice Dunant made in choosing not the titular courtesan as her narrator, but her dwarf companion. The book seemed very well-researched, as I said in my review: “…I am no historian, but it certainly seems as if Ms Dunant did her due diligence in that regard, as at a lay man’s glance, the book seems accurate in its depictions of Venice, courtesans and dwarves in the period the book is set in.” With her Sacred Hearts already on my TBR-pile and her new novel, Blood and Beauty, out in May I’m hoping that there’ll be at least one more Dunant review in 2013!
7. Jo Anderton – Debris
I loved Debris, even if in my opinion it was far more fantasy than the SF it was marketed as. I loved the concepts of the world and the characters Anderton populates it with, especially Tan and Lad. I was really glad that I already had an ARC for the next book Suited, because as I noted in my review: “Debris is a book that had problems and delights for me, but what remains after finishing it is both a sense of unfinished business and the enjoyment of a fun read. Make no mistake, Debris definitely doesn’t stand on its own in terms of answering all the questions it poses…” After reading Suited I had more of my questions answered, but also discovered more questions. Unfortunately, Anderton isn’t under contract for the third book in the series, so it’s uncertain when and where that will be published. Here’s hoping that Angry Robot picks it up in the coming year, because I really want to know what happens to Tanyana and her friends.
6. Kevin Hearne – Hexed
I loved Kevin Hearne’s debut Hounded, but had to wait a bit before I could get Hexed and Hammered, which I both loved just as much. Of the two though, I loved Hexed most, because in Hammered there is a distinct lack of Oberon and for me he is one of the selling points of this series. From the review: “But the most humour is displayed by Oberon. His snarky little commentaries on Atticus’ house guests, his silly obsessions with the strangest things, such as Sixties hippy culture and the Man, and the way he always, always knows how to earn a treat, even if he doesn’t do anything, are very entertaining and I just love Oberon to bits.” I’ve got the next few books Tricked and Trapped already on the TBR-pile, so there’ll be more Hearne reviews in the next few months.
5. Rowena Cory Daniells – The King’s Bastard
One of my favourite author discoveries this year was Rowena Cory Daniells. So while I’ve only listed The King’s Bastard here, it’s actually more of a ‘read all her books’-entry. I read both of her trilogies and the e-novella published by Solaris and her paranormal crime novel published by Clan Destine Press, so basically her entire in-print catalogue and while some books worked better for me than others, I enjoyed all of them. But on this first acquaintance I already noted what I would find in all of the books: “…that is what I’ll take away from the book the most, admiration for Daniells’ craft. The story is enthralling and I loved the political machinations in it, but what’s stayed with me most is the power of the emotions Daniells drew from me, whether it was anger at Cobalt’s plots, frustration at Byren’s inability to get through to people or sadness for things and people lost.” And she drew emotions from me with all of her books, which to me is one of the most important things in reading; if a book hasn’t made me feel anything, good or bad, it’s failed in its mission. Daniells never fails and so I’m really looking forward to her next book King-Breaker at the end of 2013.
4. Daniel Polansky – The Straight Razor Cure
One book I’d missed out on last year was The Straight Razor Cure, something I was able to remedy thanks to a little help from my friends. And I fell hard for this tale of crime and murder set in gritty Low Town. I really connected to the characters, but what snared me the most was Polansky’s writing. His prose and his way with dialogue were fabulous and the care he took with the form of his characters’ speech was extraordinary. As I put it in my review: “The book contained well-written dialogues which didn’t just reflect cultural influences, but class differences as well. When Warden speaks to the Blade, who’s a nobleman, he uses a different vocabulary and diction than when he talks to his fellow Low Towners.” I was lucky enough to be able to read the next book in the series, Tomorrow the Killing almost immediately after finishing this book and I enjoyed it just as much.
3. Steven Erikson – The Bonehunters
I read this as part of the great Tor Malazan Reread, which unfortunately, due to the blog taking up more and more of my time and real life being quite busy, I had to drop out of. Hopefully, in the next year things will settle down a bit and I’ll be able to catch back up and join in again. And for some reason I still haven’t reviewed The Bonehunters on the blog either, even if I finished the book in July. It’s not even that I didn’t love it, I assuredly did, a lot, it’s perhaps my favourite book of the series so far, it’s just I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times already all over the internet and even by me in reviews of previous books. There’s only so many ways you can call an author a genius without falling into repetitions. Suffice it to say this account of the birth of the Bonehunters and their legendary status is gripping and has as many fantastic military characters as the books following the Bridgeburners. Look for a more extensive review in the next few weeks.
2. Holly Black – White Cat
Trying to fill in some of the gaps in my YA-reading, I was recommended White Cat as a must read. As I adore Hustle and really liked Ocean’s Eleven, it turned out that I loved White Cat as well. It’s the story of Cassel, who is part of a family of con artists and very much a character that isn’t very sympathetic at first glance. However, Black manages to not only make him sympathetic over the course of the narrative, she gets you rooting for him as well. As I concluded my review: “The con is on in White Cat and I had a great time with it. It is a great book, fast-paced, tricky and exciting and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if, like me, you’re catching up on YA goodness.” That rather says it all and I’m really going to try to read the other two books in this series in the coming year.
1. Jared Shurin & Anne C. Perry (eds.) – Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse
If you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d have an anthology at the top of one of my lists, I probably would have laughed in your face. Why? Well, while I’m slowly getting more of a feeling for short fiction, especially having read more of it in the past year than in the ten years before it, I’m still far more likely to pick up a novel than an anthology or collection. Still, this set of stories based on the paintings of John Martin, blew me away. I said of its contents: “Several stories have the religious angle you’d expect, with angels and demons and raptures, others taking a completely unexpected setting, such as outer space, a secondary world or Germany during WWII. The possibilities are endlessly fascinating.” The diversity and the quality of the stories were excellent and I still can’t believe how much I loved this set of stories. Unfortunately, unless you already have the book or a friend who has a paper copy they’d lend you, this book is out of print and so no longer available. I’m just glad I’m amongst those who did have the chance to get a copy.