Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.
Who: Claire Legrand, debut author of middle grade (and soon young adult) speculative fiction. We had the pleasure of meeting Claire in person (she’s lovely), interviewing her for our newsletter (one of our favorite interviews this year), and participating on the blog tour of her debut novel (which we loved).
Recent Work: The deliciously creepy, wonderfully illustrated, spine-tingly good The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. We loved it to bits.
Give a warm welcome to Claire, everyone!
I think I’ve read more books this year than I have any year since, oh, I don’t know, elementary school? That glorious time of life when there were many more hours in the day and far fewer things to fill them with, and we were all too silly and innocent to realize how good we had it?
Let’s all heave a sigh of great longing, shall we?
Okay, back to business. So many fantastic books hit the shelves this year that it makes one’s head whirl to think of it. I did, however, manage to whittle down my list of 2012 favorites to six. Yes, six; not five. Because I just couldn’t narrow it down any farther, okay? I mean, I stared at my list, discarding and re-inserting titles for like half an hour, and then the nutcracker on my desk starting staring at me judgmentally, so I put an end to that madness.
(By giving in to another one?)
Below are my six favorite books of 2012, and below those are my five (yes, I did manage to keep it to five; the nutcracker, seriously, his stare is a thing of scornful power) most anticipated reads for 2013.
THE BOOKS THAT MADE MY SOUL SING LIKE THOSE DAYS WHEN YOU JUST HAVE TO SING DISNEY SONGS AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS IN THE CAR BECAUSE THEY BRING YOU THAT MUCH PURE, UNFETTERED JOY:
Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
Y’all, let me be real with you here for a second. Kristin Cashore, I’m pretty sure, owns the keys to my soul. Or something. Because each of her books has touched me in deep, bone-deep ways I can’t explain. They’ve made me laugh, cry, shudder, gasp, flail as I have for only a select few books in my lifetime (A Wrinkle in Time, His Dark Materials, The Last Unicorn). I can’t even bring myself to care that Cashore’s so enviably skilled; I just want to hug her out of sheer reader love. Anyway, I could rave about her all day long, but you get my drift. Everything that I thought Bitterblue was going to be, it was — and more. The single most transcendent reading experience of 2012, for me (and for UNICORN).
Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor
I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I loved it so much that I was embarrassingly effusive about it online and probably made poor Laini Taylor a bit uncomfortable. But Days of Blood and Starlight took Karou’s story to a whole new level of amazing. Taylor is right up there with Cashore, for me. The beauty of her writing is unparalleled — but still so accessible! And the world-building. The world-building. Reading this book was like eating a rich, savory (but completely unpretentious) gourmet meal. Every bite was a delight. Every bite seduced me.
THE BOOK THAT REMINDED ME OF NEIL GAIMAN (WHICH IS ONE OF THE HIGHEST COMPLIMENTS I COULD EVER GIVE, SO)
The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann
The Peculiar was one of those books that engaged me so completely that whenever I had to put it down to appease that pesky wench Reality, it was like surfacing from a very real — and often very frightening — world. Kind of like Stefan Bachmann wasn’t writing fiction at all, but rather merely telling a story about a place he had actually been. Arthur Jelliby is one of my favorite characters of 2012, and Bachmann’s writing — oh, the precise, elegant writing! — is some of my favorite of 2012, as well.
THE BOOK THAT KEPT ME UP ALL NIGHT READING IT AND HAD ME GIDDY ONLINE AT 3 IN THE MORNING AFTER I FINISHED IT AND ALSO KIND OF FREAKED ME OUT, NGL
The Diviners, by Libba Bray
This book had me at the creepy-as-hell beginning. You know the one. With the flappers, the Ouija board, and the introduction of Naughty John? (Permit me a shudder. ACKKK.) Y’all know I love me some creepy, and this book had it in spades—not to mention a huge array of compelling characters, an incredible mystery, and a setting so lush I could close my eyes and see it, taste it, smell it. I couldn’t believe this book’s complexity and scope. The Diviners was my first Libba Bray read, and it made me a believer.
THE BOOKS THAT MADE ME FEEL ALL THE FEELS AND CRY THE UGLY CRIES IN PUBLIC
Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead
Rebecca Stead’s writing, quite simply, slays me. It is so true, so full of genuine emotion, that I can’t read anything she writes without crying. She gets her narrators, these middle school-aged kids. She just gets them. Their voices pop off the page with incomparable authenticity. The simple observations in Liar & Spy about family, bullying, and friendship seem innocent on the surface — and then proceed to gut you, lovingly. This one made me cry while I was poolside at the beach with my family. When I wiped my eyes, I got sunscreen in them and it stung like a you-know-what. Darn you, Stead!
Summer and Bird, by Katherine Catmull
I just read this book, like so recently my heart still aches from it. Summer and Bird is one of the strangest, loveliest, most unique stories I’ve ever read. Summer and Bird wake up one morning to find that their parents are missing and go on a quest to find them. A pretty standard set-up, you might think — but what follows is a constantly surprising, constantly breathtaking story of a broken family, a wild avian mythology, and the — tempestuous, bittersweet, fragile — relationship between two sisters. I cried at Chipotle with this one. ALL OVER MY BURRITO BOWL, THANKS. And I’d do it again, and again, and again, if that meant I could once more experience that first, raw gut-punch of a read that was Summer and Bird.
And, for 2013 . . .
THE BOOKS THAT WILL MAKE ME SHIVER AND LISTEN TO MOODY, MACABRE MUSIC WHEN I’M NOT READING THEM SO I CAN STAY ENSCONCED IN THAT SHIVERY HEADSPACE
The Archived, by Victoria Schwab
I love Victoria Schwab’s writing (and I love Victoria!), and I love libraries, so I’ve been excited for a long while now to read this story about a place where the dead are kept on shelves like books. If that isn’t an image to get your literary mind grapes cackling with anticipation, I don’t know what is.
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
This book doesn’t have a cover yet — and I don’t know much about it other than the synopsis on Goodreads — but I do know a couple of things about it, and they’re quite enough for me to be going on. 1) It came from Holly Black’s brain, and I think we can all agree that that’s a delightfully dark and twisted place to be. 2) It has the word “doll” in the title, and since I’m deathly afraid of dolls, I’m drawn to stories about them like a moth to a flame—even though the flame will come to life when the moth isn’t looking and EAT THE MOTH’S SOUL WHY MOTH WHY ARE YOU SUCH A MASOCHIST.
THE BOOK THAT WILL PROBABLY CARVE MY HEART INTO LITTLE PIECES BUT I WILL LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT LIKE THE TWISTED FREAK I AM
The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson
I wasn’t expecting to like Girl of Fire and Thorns as much as I did. I don’t know why; I was interested in reading it, but it wasn’t the desperate, you-come-here-to-me kind of interest, which is probably why it took me so long to start reading it. And, oh, am I so glad I did! Because I completely fell in love with Elisa, one of the smartest, strongest YA heroines I’ve ever met. Rae Carson’s writing is gorgeous, her world-building rich, and her characters now feel like old friends to me. Also? As good as Girl was, its sequel, Crown of Embers, was even better. And that ending, that heartbreaker of an ending! Must. Obtain. Book. Three. STAT.
THE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS—OH MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS, THE LOVE OF MY LIFE—THAT MAKE ME SMILE WHEN I LOOK AT THEIR PRETTY LITTLE FACES
The Wig in the Window, by Kristen Kittscher
I’m so looking forward to this middle grade mystery featuring a friendship between two heroines! Girl friendships are some of my very favorite things to read about, especially middle grade girl friendships. (See: The Penderwicks.) I’ve heard comparisons to The Mysterious Benedict Society and Rear Window for this one, both of which excite me beyond belief! Plus, just look at that cover. So much charm, so much fun!
Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle
This might just be my most anticipated 2013 read. A young boy, who wants nothing more than to star on Broadway, runs away from home to star in E.T.: The Musical? I’m sorry, that sounds outrageously fun, and I can’t think of anything that could possibly make this book more enticing. Oh, except for that cover, bursting with adventure and heart. And the fact that Tim Federle is as nice and hilarious a person as you could ever hope to meet.
Thank you, Claire (I don’t know about anyone else, but The Wig in the Window just made its way onto my 2013 wanted list)!