Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Picks of 2012

In honor of the closing year, I decided to quickly insert a post of my top three favorite reads of 2012. I don't believe any of these actually released in 2012, but 2012 is when they came into my life, so that's what that is . . . .

Anyway, at the very top of this prestigious (in my mind) list is a novel you have heard me mention once or twice . . . Jasper Fforde's incomparable Shades of Grey.

Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one's limited color perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as color itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted facade.

This book is a dystopian to beat all dystopians. The first three chapters I spent scratching my head going, "Whaaaaaa . . . . ???" And then I stopped trying to make everything make sense and just allowed myself to be pulled into the world. Eddie and his dad open the novel on a tour, planning to visit the Last Rabbit? Okay. One of the most common forms of death are deadly swan attacks? Okay. Spoons are the most valuable trading commodity? Okay.

And, weirdly enough, it all made sense another few chapters in. I was part of Eddie's world and totally caught up in the bizarre and compelling plot! And that kick-in-the-gut ending? Absolutely pitch perfect. This book, despite all the fabulous reads of this last year, easily took First Place as My Number One Pick.

Warning: This is not a YA read. I would rate it at least PG-13. All of you younger readers should make certain you have parental permission before you pick this one up. Fabulous as it is, I would caution discretion to teen readers.

My next pick is a very recent read, but I did read it before the end of 2012, and it more than deserves its second place standing. This is The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

That summary swiped from Amazon really does not do this amazing book justice. I was particularly interested to read it because I heard it was retelling of the Ballad of Tam Lin. My untitled Book 6 is a very loose retelling of Tam Lin as well. I wondered if I would like Elizabeth Marie Pope's version, or if I would find it a little disappointing after my recent forays into that famous legend.

IT IS NOT DISAPPOINTING. It is rare that I come across a hitherto unread YA author whom I truly look upon as a master and a mentor. Elizabeth Marie Pope is one of those rare writers. I want to sit at her metaphorical feet and drink in whatever she might teach me! I adored this book . . . it kept me up until 2:00am, and then I needed another hour to unwind after the breathtaking finale!

This is a YA appropriate read, and one I highly recommend. There are some very frightening passages, particularly toward the end that gave me real chills. But in a good way. This book is my Second Pick of the Year

And then last, but never least, Sir Terry Pratchett's Snuff stole my readerly heart.

At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper
Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it's not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.

I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, so I knew I was going to love this book. I'm also a particular fan of his character, Sam Vimes . . . who really might be my favorite Pratchett character of all time. I was not expecting this book to take me so much by surprise, however! But then, that's my own fault. Terry Pratchett always takes me by surprise. This is an action packed and yet thoughtful novel, with tender moments, tragic moments, laugh-out-loud moments (by the dozen), and even a few tearful moments. And Lady Sybil is just awesome. No two ways about it.

I always know a book is going to be a favorite if I walk away from it inspired about my own writing. Even if the stories I write are nothing like what I just read, a good book will feed my creative soul. Snuff did that for me. I really loved it! It is my Third Pick of 2012

I recommend it to fans of Sir Terry Pratchett. If you have not yet read any Terry Pratchett, I would recommend starting earlier in his series, however. Perhaps with Guards! Guards! which first introduces us to Sam Vimes. These books are adult, not YA, and though I don't recall anything inappropriate (Pratchett is not given to dirty writing), there is definitely some innuendo and more "mature" humor in places.

So there you go! Let me know your top picks of the year, and if you've listed them on your blog, send me a link! I'd love to see.

Happy end to 2012, dear readers!


Galadriel said...

I haven't read your number 2, but your numbers 1&3 (or at least those authors)are on my list too:

Amber Holcomb said...

A dear friend of mine introduced me to Terry Pratchett this year, and it surprised me how much I took to his writing! You know the books I review on my blog are quite different...and yet I love his work! My friend had me start with Guards! Guards!, which I did really enjoy. I've also read Reaper Man, Wyrd Sisters, and Going Postal. I have to say, Reaper Man had a really strange plot, but I think it was my favorite... Death is just such a great character! I should probably read Mort sometime, as my friend has suggested. :)

Anyway, thank you for sharing your favorites, and may you have a happy and blessed new year!


Jill Stengl said...

My three favorite first-time reads of the year include: The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. (This is assuming I can't include two as-yet unpublished manuscripts in the Tales of Goldstone Wood.)

I call it my "Year of Elizabeths" (and one Elisabeth).

Soooo glad you enjoyed The Perilous Gard!!

And Amber, I love Reaper Man, too. It cracks me up every time!

Jennette said...

I need to read Sir Terry Pratchett.

Top books for 2012 that I read...

Curse Bearer by Rebecca P. Minor
Prophet by R. J. Larson
I am Ocilla by Diane M. Graham
Trinity by Clare Davidson
& of course Starflower! :-)

Kessie said...

Ooh, interesting books on your list! And you read the Perilous Gard! I had no idea it was based on Tam Lin, but looking back, it makes sense. Fire and Hemlock is a retelling of Tam Lin, too (Tom Lynn is the hero, hee hee), with a bunch of other myths mixed in.

Pope also has this other book called the Sherwood Ring (has nothing to do with Robin Hood). It's a bunch of ghosts from the Revolutionary War telling their great-great-granddaughter their stories, about . It has my all-time favorite antagonist, Peaceable Sherwood. I've never met another character like him, except MAYBE the Scarlet Pimpernel.

I listed off my top books I read this year here. They were ... interesting.

Hannah said...

I have this same list in the post below this one, but I figured I would do it officially here. So my top three favorites for this year are...

#1 goes to..."Starflower"!

#2 is awarded "The Lost Conspiracy" by Frances Hardenge. I'm simply crazy about this book. It is SO good by the time its finished. It is definitely the most original fantasy I've ever read, and it is hugely complicated!

#3 is "The Blue Sword" by Robin McKinley. I just started reading the works of this author and had hits and misses with her novels. But "The Blue Sword" was a total hit!

Hannah said...


#1 really should be the entire "Tales of Goldstone Wood" because I read them all this year.
Talk about hitting gold. :)

Meredith said...

Thanks for these recommendations, Mrs. Stengl. I'm always looking for new books. I still have to read the Jasper Ford book, and it really sounds intriguing. Also found The Perilous Gard in Braille! Have ordered it from the library and am looking forward to reading it. Will let you know what I think. God bless you.

Hannah said...

I just read The Perilous Gard. It was quite enjoyable, although I could have gone for a climax more similar to the original Ballad of Tam Lin (which I had never heard of until this post).
Now it'll be even harder to wait for Book 6 to see how you were inspired by Tam Lin, even if it is only a very loose retelling. But I think I'm beginning to see a similarity already...mainly having to do with a bargain to a Faerie Queen.