Top Books of 2012

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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December 10, 2012

Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

Like a lot of people who do this whole book blogging thing, I read a lot. Especially since I got an e-reader. This year has been no exception–and I have read way more books for fun this year than I have in a really long time. I just did an extremely rough count and it’s somewhere around 115 books and the year’s not over yet (last year I managed 130 books)!

One thing I always enjoyed doing when I was with RT was compiling my list of books for the Reviewer’s Choice Awards–I used to play a game with myself to see how well my selections matched up with the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy lists. I generally did pretty well, if I can toot my horn a little bit (last year was my best ever, go me!).

So, without further ado, in no particular order are my favorite books of 2012. Okay, they’re kind of in the order they were read. And some of these I read last year, but they were published this year so they totally count. If I kept it to books I read this year that I liked we would be here for EVEN LONGER.

  • Range of Ghosts, Elizabeth Bear  Really interesting secondary world fantasy with two engaging and completely different protagonists, including a princess who gives up her ability to bear children in exchange for becoming a magician.
  • Lessons after Dark, Isabel Cooper This is direct sequel to 2011’s No Proper Lady, which I also loved. It’s set in a quasi-Victorian world where magic and demons are real. The world building is amazing in this series. Also, no squidgy consent issues.
  • A Lady Awakened, Cecilia Grant I loved this book so much. Martha is uptight and repressed and needs to get pregnant so she won’t lose her home. So she basically hires her neighbor to have sex with her–Theo, the disgraced son of a nobleman. There is a lot of bad sex. Really, really bad uptight repressed refusing to enjoy it sex. And it’s great–because as Martha comes to respect and like Theo, the sex slowly gets better until she lets him in completely and they have one of the most emotionally satisfying encounters I think I have ever read. Also, they come to like and respect each other over estate management. So great.
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal This is the second book in Kowal’s Regency-set fantasy series and it’s nearly as wonderful as the first (Shades of Milk and Honey). In this one, Jane and Vincent are newly married and Vincent’s being a total butt and not letting Jane know what he’s up to and then she saves him and pays a terrible price for doing so. It’s a great examination of what a marriage of equals really is and how internal and unrecognized sexism can interfere.
  • A Week to be Wicked, Tessa Dare FRANCINE FOREVER. Ahem. Minerva Highwood needs to get to Scotland to present on a fossil (which she has named Francine). She talks Colin Sandhurst into accompanying her and hijinks ensue. Dare is great at weaving in a very serious story amongst all the hijinks and I found this to be an exceedingly satisfying read.
  • Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore This book. Oh, this book. There’s just no way I can truly do this book justice. It is a long complicated story about forgiveness and healing and resolution even in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers. It’s just a gorgeous book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. After you read Graceling and Fire, that is.
  • The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, N.K. Jemisin This is a duology that takes on a lot of complicated ideas while telling a fantastic story. Features ninja priests who will kill you in your sleep! And the cost of corruption and colonialism and the insidious evil of sexual abuse. Compelling stuff.
  • Redshirts, John Scalzi I think this book is going to be on a lot of lists this year and next–it is on one hand a hilarious deconstruction of well-worn science fiction tropes, especially those on television shows but on the other hand, it’s also a metafictional meditation on life and meaning. The third coda totally made me cry.
  • Queen’s Hunt, Beth Bernobich This is the second book in Bernobich’s River of Souls series. Ilse is awesome. Raul is awesome. This is very much a second book, though, so read Passion Play first.
  • Sharps, K.J. Parker Political fantasy with an ensemble cast. No magic, just fencing and political machinations. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and Parker’s on my list of writers whose work of which I would like to read more. (I wish I could end sentences with a preposition. I am incapable. I’ve tried.)
  • Whispers Underground, Ben Aaronovitch Hilarious and read-out-loud funny. These are basically police procedurals with magic. For me, apart from the humor, the best thing about them is that Peter doesn’t level up at the end of each book. At the end of this book, he still only knows four puny spells. The setting is modern London which is full of all sorts of different kinds of people. It’s great.
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold I loved this book. I will read just about anything Bujold writes and I was so excited when I heard she was finally going to write an Ivan book and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Also, I want more about the Simon and Alys show. (Radish-y review.)
  • Tempting the Bride, Sherry Thomas It’s a hate-marriage-of-convenience book! Where the heroine gets kicked in the head by a horse and develops amnesia! The premise is completely insane and yet it works. (Radish-y review.)
  • Ride with Me, Ruthie Knox Short but emotionally satisfying–the relationship between Tom and Lexie develops as they ride cross-country. They each have a history and baggage and are prickly in their own way. As I read this, I kept thinking about the idea of grace. (Radish-y review.)

I don’t think this year was a really great year for books, but looking over this list, it wasn’t half-bad, either. There are definitely a few standouts and I’m looking forward to next year.

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  1. Brie

    A Lady Awakened (I read it this weekend) and Ride with Me are on my list, and after reading Graceling I have a feeling that Bitterblue would be on it as well, but I’m saving it to read during the holiday break. I feel tempted to talk about how Sherry Thomas’ book didn’t work for me, so it would be the third time I come to this blog to complain about it, LOL! I’ll add the other books to my TBR list. Maybe 2013 will be the year I read something else besides romance!

  2. donna

    Interesting that our only overlap was Redshirts, although had I not been limiting myself to 10 books for some stupid reason, I would have also included the Bujold, of course. In fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t, now…


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