December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

It's New Year's Eve and I've got my list all ready. It contains 15 titles this year, one up from last year and one down from the year before if memory serves.

Best of 2012
(in the order in which I read them)

FYI, that's 4 urban fantasies, 4 contemporaries, 3 fantasies, 2 romances, 1 historical, and 1 post-apocalyptic. 
Interestingly, 3 of them are also novellas.

Best New Discovery of 2012

As evidenced by the fact that she shows up twice on my Best of list. With her brand new Edie Spence series, she singlehandedly slaked my thirst for new urban fantasy. I cannot wait to see how many slots she nabs this coming year.

Biggest Character Crush of 2012
Adam Parrish

A moment of silence, please, for this particular raven boy. May he survive the series and find peace.

Biggest Author Crush of 2012
Courtney Milan

It's difficult to quantify just how much pleasure I've derived from glomming Ms. Milan's backlist this year. I discovered her through her blog, which is smart, smart, smart. Also full of fascinating info on writing and publishing (both traditional and self). I moved on to her fabulous historical romances and lost track of time and space, so taken was I with her crisp, clean writing and endearing characters. I can tell this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Best Books I Read in 2012, Which Were Published in a Different Year

Happy New Year!

December 20, 2012

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

All right. I've officially waited as long as I could. The thing is--you need to know about this book. This sequel. Because it's coming in less than two months and I want you to be ready and not sitting around, twiddling your thumbs, wondering whether or not it'll be worth your time. Hint: it is so beyond worth your time. For those of you wondering, Scarlet is the sequel to Cinder, the first book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. Each installment is also its own fairy tale retelling. First we had Cinderella, now Little Red Riding Hood, with Rapunzel and Snow White yet to come. Ask me how much I love quartets? Go on. Ask me! But I'll be honest. At first I was skeptical with the fairy tale hopping and the completely new protagonists taking up valuable page time with no resolution in sight. I was a bit not okay with where Cinder left off, but the early word on Meyer's take on Little Red Riding Hood was extremely good. And, really, how long have you been longing for a standout retelling of this particular fairy tale? It has the potential to be so incredibly awesome, yet I just hadn't run across one to date. And so with all of this in mind I exercised restraint (I know) and reserved judgement.

Scarlet has misplaced her grandmother. That is to say--she was there when Scarlet left to work a shift at the local pub, and she was not there when she returned home once more. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and Scarlet has exhausted every last resource over the last few months trying to track her grandmother down. But the woman who for all intents and purposes raised her has vanished without a trace, and it isn't until a street fighter by the name of Wolf wanders into her pub that she encounters what might be hope. Of course, it doesn't look like hope all dressed up in scruffy wolf clothing. In fact, everything about Wolf screams out a warning and Scarlet hears that warning loud and clear. But he insists he has information that could be of use in her search. And so utterly against her better judgement, she agrees to follow him. Meanwhile, back at the model home, Cinder has managed to escape the prison and, along with her fellow prisoner and ne'er-do-well Captain Thorne, hijacks a ship. With the Lunar Queen hot on their trail, Cinder is racing against the clock to save her own neck and keep Prince Kai from enduring a fate worse than death. But no one is more shocked than Cinder when her path crosses with Scarlet's and Wolf's in what simply cannot be coincidental ways.
She did not know that the wolf was a wicked sort of animal, and she was not afraid of him.
With this one book, Marissa Meyer has cemented her creds with this reader. And I kind of love that she did it with the second book in a series, too. It exceeded expectations, but it also sent me running back to Cinder to retread all the introductory storytelling, simultaneously securing my love for Scarlet and enhancing my excitement for the next two novels. Quite the feat, that one. The world building in this series is top-notch, and with the second installment we get a wonderful change of scenery. The return to Earth itself (rural France to be precise), was a smart move as it grounds Scarlet and her unique story in an entirely different way from Cinder's. They're different girls. Their lives, their backgrounds, their hopes and dreams are profoundly different. At first I worried about the alternating point of view chapters. I never knew who I was going to be with or for how long. And while I initially quite preferred being with Scarlet (and Wolf), it wasn't long before Cinder (and the hilarious Thorne) won me over again. The ambition of the narrative ramped up right along with the intertwining of the plots. It was organic. I concerned myself with each of them and with the ways in which their individual lives were being altered by the unholy force and far reach of the Lunar Queen. But this story is all Scarlet's. Scarlet--with her threadbare trademark hoodie and her carefully measured thoughts and actions. I loved the intimate admission we receive to her life. The arc of her relationship with Wolf is quiet, sometimes the quiet of first snowfalls and hidden glances and sometimes the quiet of cold sweats and incapacitating fear. It was a perfectly delineated arc, one that crept into my heart on the softest of paws. As you can tell, I kind of have a thing for this book. I wouldn't change a thing about it. It slid handily into the first slot on my Best of 2013 list like it wasn't even trying. So do the right thing. Pick Scarlet up the day it comes out. The better to kick off your new year's reading with, my dears.

Scarlet is due out February 5th.

Buy: Amazon B&N The Book Depository

Reading Order
Cinder (my review)

Another Novel Read - "I was hooked so hard."
Carina's Books - " . . . you must read Scarlet the moment it comes out. It is more than worth the wait."
Cuddlebuggery Book Blog - "Scarlet is fantastic."
Good Books and Good Wine - " . . . it makes me want to keysmash all kinds of words of love."
Makeshift Bookmark - "We have a story here, folks."

December 4, 2012

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

What's that you say? You love a good dissenting opinion? Well, that's works out well. Because here I am. Not thrilled, but certainly prepared, to be the lone voice of dissent on this one. I went ahead and read an ARC of Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility after sifting through the seemingly universal ecstatic reviews that have been pouring in from all and sundry. And when I say universal, I mean universal. Readers across the board are going out of their ever loving minds over this book. Yeah. I kind of had to get in on that action, especially when a review copy floated my way. This is Millay's debut novel. She self-published it a couple of months ago, and it has (as has become the way of things) since been acquired by Atria Books for paperback publication this summer. A change of cover went along with the acquisition (as is usually the case), and I have to say I'm likely in the minority on this subject as well. I much prefer the self-pub cover. But as the overall package didn't work for me anyway, that's really neither here nor there.

Nastya doesn't talk. Ever. She's recently moved in with her aunt and is starting school in an unfamiliar environment. And she knows very well how the student body is going to react, not just to her lack of voice but to her unorthodox appearance as well. In fact, she courts it. Ever since . . . what happened to her . . . Nastya has adopted a forbidding public facade. When she's alone, the clothes include colors, the makeup is washed off, and she runs. As if for her very life. And yet a couple of people at her new school attach to her anyway, including uber-lascivious Drew and his best friend (and opposite in almost every way) Josh Bennett. Nastya's not sure why, but Drew seems to view her as his next conquest, while Josh watches her from afar, walking around inside a force field of his own. And, somehow, without even wanting to, Nastya becomes incorporated into their daily and weekly rituals. But it's when she stops in the middle of her nightly run and sees Josh in his garage, laboring away over his woodworking projects, that her routine really changes. Unfortunately, neither of them are quite prepared for how that one alteration in routine is going to overhaul their lives. For two people keeping as many dark secrets as they are, even the most minuscule of human connections could spell disaster.

I feel bad about this, but wow was I expecting more. I went in not knowing anything about this book at all, which was exactly the way I wanted it. But I did expect to be engaged. I expected to want to finish it. Unfortunately, I felt neither. I understand how the setup worked so well for many readers. The secrets, the slow buildup between characters, the angry, angsty girl that so often I adore. It makes sense on paper. But I felt such a distance between myself and these characters, a wall of ice separating me from the agony and the longing they experienced nonstop for close to 500 pages. This separation extended to the characters' talents and passions as well. Nastya's love for the piano, Josh's passion for woodworking, Clay's artistry . . . they were spelled out on the page but never brought to life in my mind. Barring that connection to anything but isolation and pain, I simply could not connect or care what happened to them. Instead of exquisite, slow-building tension, what I felt was a terminally lifeless pace and a drab persistence in skirting actually meaningful moments. The Sea of Tranquility felt like an oddly antiseptic mash-up of Easy and If I Stay/Where She Went, with more of an emphasis on the pain and violence and less of an effort at character depth and growth. I soldiered through to the end, wanting to make sure I didn't miss out on any sudden flashes of light. But the storytelling remained business as usual to the very end, at which point we got a parting line that sort of pushed me over the edge. It seemed to encapsulate every promise this book ever held and never lived up to. It felt like a last-ditch attempt at the sort of emotional manipulation I detest. Too little, far, far too late. As I mentioned, I am not remotely within a stone's throw of the majority of opinions on this book. So grain of salt, mileage may vary, onward and upward, etc.

The Sea of Tranquility is available now in ebook form and will be published in paperback on June 4th.

Buy: Amazon B&N

The Allure of Books - "The Sea of Tranquility is on my fave reads OF ALL TIME list."
Dear Author - "It was an emotionally satisfying book in large part due to the ending."
Love is Not a Triangle - "I urge you to pick up The Sea of Tranquility and experience Nastya and Josh's story for yourself."
Reading After Midnight - "A great contemporary romance that will break your heart a bit, but it will be well worth it.

December 1, 2012

Smugglivus 2012!

Psst. You guys. It's December 1st! I'll meet you over by the usual palm tree, aka Book Smugglers Central, where I will be holding court with my annual awards for the best of 2012. From Meet-Cutes and Mid-Series Game Changers to Declarations and Comfort Reads, we'll be hashing it out. Stop by and weigh in. I'll see you there!