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: Janice, of the SF blog Janicu’s Book Blog. Janice is a fellow booknerd, writing reviews as a speculative fiction romantic and a sophomore Smugglivus guest.
Please give it up for the lovely Janice, everyone!
Thanks to the Book Smugglers for inviting me to the Smugglivus celebrations for a second year! 2012 was a tough year for me in regards to reading (busy times at work messing with my brain’s ability to concentrate), but I did get some good reads in. And I discovered 5 books that knocked me off my socks and automatically got added to my “Best of 2012” list. Here they are, in the order that I found them:
A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess
A Girl Like You is a contemporary romance that has one of those bad boy player types who gets redeemed. And it has a friends to lovers theme. It also opens in such a way that suggests that the bad boy player type is a complete asshat. Please keep reading and don’t let that turn you off. This is a story of Abigail, who is not quite confident at the dating game, but she becomes buddies with Robert (they share a flat), and he’s a charmer who knows how the game is played and is willing to tell Abigail what to do. Although there is some level of expectation here that this story lives up to, it doesn’t really go about it in the way you’d expect. What I liked about this one is the portrayal of friendships of young twenty-something Londoners, who go out to bars and parties and everyone knows everyone else. This was about friendship as well as about romance. Robert has broken a few hearts but to Abigail he’s someone who never judges and is always there. I think there was some depth in the way friendship is portrayed in this story that balances out the expected fun bits of your usual chick lit. I was SO invested in this romance because of it.
Recommended for: Chick lit/Contemporary Romance readers who like a balance of fun and depth, who like the friends to lovers trope, and who can reserve judgement of a hero’s checkered past.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This is probably on a lot of people’s best of 2012 lists, but I think it’s also one of those books where the less you know the better. If you haven’t read this book, and you haven’t read any reviews yet, then good, go and read this one without having a clue what it’s about. That might be best. I really loved this one and for every review where someone didn’t quite love it and they refer to expectations because of previous reviews, I feel something of a pang. If you’ve already read a review, well forget all about it and then read this.
Recommended for: Fans of girls who have adventures. Anyone with a best friend.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
This book. Often I have trouble recommending books to people because there’s always some caveat over whether someone will like a story. Maybe I’m not sure the voice will go over very well with everyone, or maybe the pace is for the more patient reader, or maybe there’s a sex scene I am not sure everyone will like very much. But Seraphina I actually felt rather confident about recommending this early on. I was telling everyone about this at BEA all the way back in June. I was just that excited. I think it’s because it combines the familiar (fantasy set in a medieval world, a castle and dragons) with the unexpected (dragons who don’t like all the emotions they’re suddenly flooded with when they shapeshift into human form, a heroine with a terrible secret, and a mysterious death). Seraphina is also narrator that I connected with – she doesn’t want attention, but she has something about her that shines. Maybe it’s her inner chutzpah.
Recommended for: Anyone who is a fan of Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, Diana Wynne Jones and authors of that ilk. Yes, I said it.
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
I have never read a Sarah Rees Brennan book before Unspoken, despite being told to do so by certain people who always turn out to be right. Anyway, I gave Unspoken a try and I loved it. In a nutshell this is about Kami, the type of girl who is full of energy and bulldozes everyone around her into joining her in her madcap plans. Plans that often involve being nosy in the pursuit of the Truth, which is very important in Kami’s quest to be an investigative journalist. To put a twist in this, Kami also has an imaginary friend who has spoken to her all her life. Except he turns out to be real. And he turns out to be one of the Lynburns, a mysterious family that founded her town, and the focus of Kami’s newest search for Truth. And in the meantime, there are creepy screams coming from the woods.
What a fresh combination of humor and Gothic mystery. I wasn’t expecting to, but I ended up really enjoying this story, and I think the thing that tipped me over to full on love of this book is the portrayal of the relationships between characters. They were well drawn and they were not pat. I particularly loved complexity of the relationship between Kami and the not-so-imaginary-boy-in-her-head. Oh the tasty insecurity! Extra points for a main character that’s quarter-Japanese.
Recommended for: Fans of contemporary YA and humorous banter who have patience for build-up of suspense. If you’re also familiar with Gothic romance tropes, you’ll have fun.
Ashes of Honor by Seanan Mcguire
Perhaps I need to just cut and paste my commentary in last year’s Smugglivus post about Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series over here. I swear, every year, I love this series more. This is a series where each book just builds upon the last, adding layers of insight into the mystery of the main character’s life. This would be October Daye, a half-human, half-fae changeling who lives in San Fransisco and helps people with murders and kidnappings that are fae-related. This sounds like many other urban fantasies out there, but trust me, there is something delicious about the combination of great world building, reader bread-crumbs, and the torturous wait to see if October finally gets together with potential love-interest Tybalt. This is a series where secondary characters grow on you too. Well, Ashes of Honor is the latest book, and my head practically exploded reading this one. I don’t do GIFs, but if I did, there is some “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER” GIF that would do here.
Recommended for: Urban Fantasy readers that like a series where story arcs develop over several books.
Books I’m highly anticipating in 2013:
Bronze Gods by A. A. Aguirre – steampunk buddy-cop type story written by Ann Aguirre and her husband? I’ll have some of that.
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells – I tried Martha Wells thanks to recommendations here at Smugglivus from Kristen of Fantasy Cafe, and I am a fan now. Very excited to try out a YA from this author.
A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn – New Deanna Raybourn is reason enough, but also, “the story of Delilah Drummond, a scandalous flapper who journeys to Kenya in 1923 in search of adventure” — sounds good to me.
The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke – Loved the first book, The Assassin’s Curse, cannot wait for the second book. This series has assassins and pirates in it. Nuf said.
Love Irresistibly by Julie James – I’m going to say the same thing I did last year here: I am not a romantic suspense kinda girl, but I will read Julie James’ romantic suspense.
Thank you for having me over Smugglers, and a Happy Smugglivus to all!
Thank you, Janice!