Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Big 7-0-0

It's nice to come to a round number of posts on a wrap-up post, isn't it?  So, for my 700th post on this blog, I decided to give you 2012 in review.  Unfortunately, this ended up being seriously daunting, and between travel, hosting, being hosted, and general fretting, I've been putting it off. 

Let's start with some stats: 107 books total this year.  I always feel like I need to qualify this number, though--8 graphic novels, 5 novellas, 15 kids' books.  I don't separate YA, since the difference between YA and other books is frequently arbitrary.  I didn't pick out nonfiction, either, but the number is almost laughably low. 

Another thing I noticed was that there was a lot of filler this year.  Kind of junky stuff.  I mean, there are always going to be the Anastasia Krupnik books, which are light and kids and hardly count, but I read them for joy, and they take no time at all.  But there were quite a few books this year that passed right over me, hardly making a ripple.  Not that I can't remember them--I rarely have that problem--but that, if I could go back and have that time back to read something else, I'd take it.  Books that had clever ideas that didn't pan out (Safekeeping), YA books that were formulaic and I could have done without (Monument 14), books that had buzz but didn't touch me (The Age of Miracles). 

I'm not even counting the ones I was personally excited about but let me down (Princess Academy: Palace of Stone).  I'm just thinking of the ones that I picked up with a vague idea that I ought to read it and kept going with in spite of the fact that I wasn't necessarily enjoying it.  I do that a lot less these days--I'm much more likely to put a book down now than I ever have been in my life--but I'm still at risk of letting momentum carry me through the mediocre.  I'm going to do a post on that phenomenon soon (for Lianna!), but I'm sad to look back on those parts of the list, especially when looking ahead at the great to-reads that have been waiting forever.

But enough about the bad stuff.  Let's do the good stuff, and let's do this chronologically (with the help of Goodreads.  Which is over capacity right now, probably due to all the bloggers trying to get on to do their year-end wrap-ups.  Which, by the way, have many of the books I've listed below on them).

I started the year with Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, and I'll put it on a top 10 list, any day.  I can't blame anyone who finds it too twee, because oh, a scavenger hunt with a stranger in NYC at Christmastime, with your cranky grandpa upstairs and your gay best friend crashing on your couch and yes, it's twee.  But it's a Christmas book, and it's charming, and I loved it.

Petty Treason, by Madeleine Robins, the first Sarah Tolerance novel.  Thank you, thank you, Aarti, for having this book in your list of "Heroines Who Don't Annoy Me," because I love Sarah Tolerance. 

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth E. Wein.  I'd like to thank the publisher of this book for giving me an ARC.  I love it when I love an ARC, and I was happy to join the stampede of good press that this got before it came out.  The sense of time and place, the two very different characters who are so close, and the intense, nailbiting plot--it was unexpected and just right, and I want more books just like this.

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green.  My first John Green, though I've tried before.  There are people who loathe him, mostly because his characters are too glib and don't talk like people.  I think this book gets away with that, though, because these teenagers are dying--they're introverted, bookish, and mature.  And I loved them--tears were jerked, and I didn't even mind.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. I don't have a ton to say about this, except that I really enjoyed it.  I feel like it was amazingly well-crafted and structured, as though the different focal points of the narrator's life, Tinker's life, the Twenties in general, and New York specifically were all nested neatly inside each other and playing off each other brilliantly.  I still wish we'd been able to have our book club meeting about this book.

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi.  I am now a John Scalzi fan.  This book is all worldbuilding, but good worldbuilding is just about one of my favorite things in reading.  It satisfies my need for tight, neat order--it's like Competence on a universal level.

Bab: A Sub-Deb, by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Like meeting Bertie Wooster and Anne Shirley again for the first time.

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley.  Okay, this is the one you really need to read if you haven't.  I know, the Top Secret Government Agency That Deals With the Supernatural has been done inside out.  And that alone would not have won me over.  But a really good amnesia story, super-duper Competence, and that perfect balance between drama and humor (without a bunch of flat-out jokes) made this an incredibly appealing book.  There's almost no one I wouldn't recommend this to.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kirstin Cronn-Mills.  This one sort of snuck up on me.  In a lot of ways it's a pretty standard YA book, with a certain amount of self-centeredness and focus on sex and romance by the main character.  But the main character is a trans guy trying to figure out what life after high school looks like, and somehow that makes the sense of drama of adolescence seem much less annoying.  The characters who say one thing and mean another, or change their minds, or don't even know their minds are all so human that I was really impressed.

So there you have my Best Of list for the year.  It's a bit short; hopefully tomorrow I'll have a Resolutions post that will make next year's list longer.

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