Search This Blog

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favourite Books of 2012

With only a couple of days left in 2012, I thought now would be a good time to bring out the annual Favourites list! 

These are the books that stuck with me throughout the year. The ones that I kept thinking about long after I turned the last page and read the final line. These are the characters who haunted me, the stories that compelled me and the authors who captivated me.  

This has certainly been a great reading year – but 2012 is also a highlight for me because I got to be part of some wonderful bookish events. I was honoured to be a judge in the incredible 2012 ‘Inky Awards’, along with some very talented and articulate fellow judges, we were given the very hard task of sifting through some of the best books of 2011-2012 to narrow down a shortlist for teen readers to vote for. 

Then there was the Melbourne Writers Festival  – where I got to meet some of my all-time favourite authors and hear them speak about their craft, audience, hardships and writing tips. A personal highlight was hearing Melina Marchetta talk, at length, on the ‘Jellicoe Road’ movie adaptation. 

And then this month revealed one more literary treat – when ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ remained on the VCE reading list. I’m choosing to believe that my little anti-wowser rant may have helped a little. 

Yes, 2012 has been a very kind year – full of reading, writing and reviewing glory. 
Now I’m really excited for 2013. I hope everyone has a very happy (and safe!) New Year. No doubt there will be lots of bookish treats in store for us bibliophiles, but let’s also cross our fingers to good health, good friends and good times in 2013. 

Happy New Year! 


'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green

Markus Zusak hit-the-nail-on-the-head in his cover quote for this book: “You laugh, you cry, and then you come back for more.” That could well apply to any and all of John Green’s novels, but is especially true of the suckerpunching ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Anyone who has read previous John Green books would have instantly known to gird their heart in preparation for what protagonist, Hazel Grace, would affectionately call a ‘cancer book’. But what readers would never be able to prepare for was the unconventional romance between terminal-cancer patient Hazel, and cancer-survivor Augustus Waters.
Here is a young adult novel that, literally, stares death in the face and calls on readers to laugh before they cry. Astounding. John Green should expect (another) Printz any day now.

'After the Darkness' by Honey Brown 

Honey Brown has fast become one of my favourite Australian authors. From ‘Red Queen’ to ‘The Good Daughter’, and now with ‘After the Darkness’ – she is phenomenal. 
Trudy and Bruce are a happily married, middle-aged couple enjoying a weekend getaway when they step into a cliff-side nightmare and narrowly escape death. What follows after their frantic fight for survival is a slow sink into paranoia and guilt – when the roles of ‘victim’ and ‘killer’ are reversed, and the innocent pair are left to cope with the deluge.
Haunting and brilliant, I’m desperate for Honey Brown’s next book. 

'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes 

This was my first Moyes read, and it absolutely wrecked me. I read this while I was on a weekend getaway in Sydney and I swear, Moyes kept me bundled in my hotel room for a few extra hours because I just had to finish this heartbreaker. I have since passed my copy on to family and friends and it’s still making the rounds – and I’m still getting phone-calls/txt messages/emails after they’ve finished reading and need to have a heart-to-heart.

'Burned' Void City #4 by J.F. Lewis 

I’m a huge fan of J.F. Lewis’s gorily-good ‘Void City’ series with vampiric anti-hero extraordinaire, Eric. But the laugh-out-loud, so-wrong-it’s-right hilarity of the past three books was suddenly thrown for a curveball in this fourth instalment, when Lewis went and wrote a game-changing book for our leading man… one in which his epic (anti?)love story with Marilyn is revealed to have more facets and hope than readers ever thought possible. I can find no mention of ‘Void City’ #5 book in the works, but I have my fingers crossed that it’s happening and I can get it in my hot little hands very, very soon. 

'Firelight' and ‘Moonglow’ Darkest London series 
by Kristen Callihan 

Little did I know what I was stumbling into when I bought the first book in Callihan’s debut ‘Darkest London’ series. I was lured by the cover-quote from one of my favourite authors, Diana Gabaldon, who said: “Callihan has a great talent for sexual tension and jaw-dropping plots that weave together brilliantly in the end.” What an understatement! For two books Kristen Callihan had me on the edge-of-my-seat; first with the intriguing mystery surrounding the identity of masked leading-man Lord Benjamin Archer in ‘Firelight’, and then with a rampaging werewolf in ‘Moonglow’. And then there’s the cast of ever so intriguing characters – from the Ellis sisters and their leading men, to a curious collection of supernatural Londoners. This series has me hooked, and third book ‘Winterblaze’ made my 2013 Most Anticipated Books list. I also see a fourth book, ‘Shadowdance’, is slated for 2013 (I have my fingers crossed this shall include a certain GIM character…) 

This book really kicked-off my year of reading great Australian Women Writers . And what a great first book this was for that challenge! Set in the great Pilbara region, the novel is about an engineer called Lena Todd who lands the perfect job for hands-on engineering experience, but finds herself one of only five women amongst 350 men. Men who wolf-whistle, leer call her ‘Madame Engineer’ and mistake her for the cleaning lady. But Lena proves to them all that she’s one of the best engineers they’ll ever have the privilege of working with. A fantastic read for its tough, outback setting and just as tough heroine, Hill’s debut also has a great ‘opposites attract’ romance at its centre and was one of the best Aussie reads I had the privilege of  discovering all year. Now I’m excited to read Loretta Hill’s sequel, ‘The Girl in the Hard Hat’.


'The Reluctant Hallelujah' by Gabrielle Williams 

I distinctly remember the 2011 Penguin YA showcase, when the cover for ‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ was revealed (with an audible gasp from the audience) and the jaw-dropping storyline discussed with the wonderful author. I remember sitting in the audience and knowing this book would be a hit. That cover! That title! That taboo! And I was not wrong… following on from the incredible success of her debut ‘Beatle Meets Destiny’, Williams arguably had a lot riding on this second novel – but she undoubtedly surpassed all expectations with this road-trip novel, unlike any other.
‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ is quite a conundrum – at once funny and serious, devout and controversial, a breathtaking tear-jerker. Reading this just made me that much more excited for whatever Ms Williams writes next.

'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan 

When the young adult genre is overrun with fairly same-same paranormal stories of vampires, werewolves, angels and zombies (and all with the prerequisite love triangle) trust Margo Lanagan to step into the arena and flip the genre on its head. First, by taking it back to its Gothic/fable roots in telling a re-imagined Selkie legend, and then by completely revitalizing the roles women play in such stories. In ‘Sea Hearts’, Lanagan puts beautiful female Selkies in the duelling roles of seductress and victim, lover and destroyer – and the result is a breathtaking, literary lovely. 

'Queen of the Night' by Leanne Hall 

I so loved Hall’s debut novel ‘This is Shyness’ that I was thrilled to learn fans would be returning to the story of Wildgirl (Nia) and Wolfboy (Jethro). Much as I loved revisiting the romance between these two outcasts, I especially loved that in this sequel Hall beautifully expands the world of Shyness. She does so by immersing readers in the mystery of Dr. Gregory, ‘blue people’ and questions of where the darkness of Shyness came from. . . So superb, I have my fingers constantly crossed in hoping for a third book. 


'The Wrong Boy' by Suzy Zail

Zail had a lot to live up to with this book, what with an eyebrow-raising blurb about a young Jewish girl called Hanna who finds herself falling for ‘the wrong boy’ during her time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Wrong boy is an understatement, as Hanna starts falling for the son of the SS Captain she plays piano for in the evenings. High-stakes story indeed – but Zail pulled it off, with brilliance and heartbreak – weaving Hanna’s horrible story with a shockingly complex unfolding romance. Really, it’s a coming-of-age story set during one of the darkest chapters of human history.
Though a work of fiction, Zail’s book was partly inspired by her father, who was sent to Auschwitz when he was just thirteen-years-old, and what she has created is a darkly moving novel of heroism and dark history. I would still like to see this novel put up for some young adult literary awards. 

'Fair Game' Alpha and Omega #3 by Patricia Briggs 

I loved everything about ‘Fair Game’ – and I feel like my love was heightened by a long absence from Charles & Anna’s story. Firstly, I loved that we (and Anna) got some insight into Charles’s struggle in his role as ‘right-hand’ of the Marrok. I loved Anna putting Bran in his place. But what I loved most of all was *that* ending – which I can’t talk about because it’s spoiler-ific. Let me just say it was a DOOZY that will game-change the entire Alpha & Omega and Mercy Thompson universe. 

'My Friend Dahmer' by Derf Backderf

I've read this reviewed as being the “Citizen Kane of comic books”, and while I’m no connoisseur I can recognize that Backderf’s work is pretty close to genius. As a look at the teenage years of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, this is most definitely a disturbing read; but, funnily enough, not for the reasons you’d expect. What’s actually unsettling is what a sympathetic character Dahmer starts out as – this kid whose life was just piling up against him so he never even stood a chance. 
I owe big, big, big thanks to Marisa Pintado for recommending me this one. 


'Night Beach' by Kirsty Eagar 

Kirsty Eagar’s third novel is pure, creeping brilliance. I love Melina Marchetta’s full cover quote, which just perfectly sums up what so moved me while reading: "There are images in this novel that take my breath away, dialogue that I envy and one of the most achingly real protagonists I've come across in a long while. A powerful story about yearning and fear and finding the beauty in the spaces between." Eagar always writes such interesting, warped Australian landscapes – whether she’s showing us the ocean through the eyes of a lonely surfer in ‘Raw Blue’, or revealing the hidden menace of what lies beneath crashing waves as in ‘Saltwater Vampires’ – in her third book, Eagar turns the beach into a nightmarish dreamscape of feathers and shifting shadows. 

I also loved ‘Night Beach’ for the explorations into art, inspiration and obsession – through the eyes of creative protagonist, Abbie. I was lucky enough to interview Ms Eagar and made it a point to spread out all the poignant pieces mentioned throughout the book – and looking back now I see more than ever that Abbie’s inspirations and art loves tell a story in themselves. 

'Grace Beside Me' by Sue McPherson 

I adored this debut contemporary young adult novel, for a lot of reasons. A strong one being that it was written by an aboriginal author, featured an aboriginal protagonist and was a coming-of-age story based in 2008 – with a focus on ‘sorry day’ – a landmark in Australian history and reconciliation that I hadn’t read of with any prominence in Aussie YA until this book. Fuzzy Mac was a wonderful protagonist, and this story has been one of the most powerful and important to come out of Aussie YA in a long time. 

'Black Heart' Curse Workers #3 by Holly Black 

Black kicked her series off by introducing tricky anti-hero, Cassel Sharpe, with a twisting memory-loss plot that was as fascinating as it was shocking. From there she built a complex family tragedy and a doomed romance between Cassel and mob princess, Lila Zacharov. Black wrote daring deceits, cutting betrayals and a shocking family saga for Cassel … so there was indeed a lot of expectation on her to bring it all home in the third and final book – which she did, brilliantly. Sometimes you can read the final instalment in a series and it’s such a disappointment as to tinge all previously wonderful books with a bitter aftertaste (ahem) not so with Holly Black. She went out on a BANG! that seems to still be reverberating with me, long after I finished reading. I will recommend this series to absolutely *everyone* because with this final book, Holly Black made it a truly perfect trilogy. 


'Holier Than Thou' by Laura Buzo 

I adored Buzo’s ‘Good Oil’ – and was thrilled to learn that in America (where’s it’s title is ‘Love and Other Perishable Objects’) her debut has been nominated for a Morris Award. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that her second book is just as good and cements her in the ranks of fabulous new Aussie YA authors. ‘Holier Than Thou’ is a perfect example of what the emerging New Adult genre should be. In this book, protagonist Holly Yarkov is a 20-something confronting current struggles with work and romance, while also reflecting on her formative teen years; her father’s death, the-one-that-got-away and simultaneously thinking about how vital her friendships were back then, compared to their current disintegration. It’s fabulous and reflective, and has set a new benchmark for New Adult.


Something Like Normal’ by Trish Doller 

I read a fantastic post from the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) blog. They were writing on ‘the next big thing’ in all genres of young adult books, but when it came to contemporary/realistic fiction they called it “the always” because there would never be a ‘next big thing’ in this genre that is the pillar of young adult reading. 

And that’s very true. Contemporary fiction will always be genre that depicts teen life – it will always be changing to reflect the times, and what is important to teenagers right now. So it’s no surprise that if there’s any predicting to be had, it’s that we’re going to see more novels about post-military service and the effects this has had on a generation of children who witnessed 9/11, and have been seeing news of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on their TV screens since 2001. With a 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of us, now seems the time when people will be reflecting, questioning and healing. And I do think that upcoming contemporary YA novels will reflect this historic moment in history. 

So it was wonderful to read Trish Doller as one of the first US YA authors to tackle the questions of post-traumatic stress, soldiers reassimilating to civilian life and dealing with what they’ve lost. ‘Something Like Normal’ certainly sets the bar high for those post-war books which are sure to come. With infinite tenderness and harsh honesty, Doller told the story of Travis who was seen as the hero of his small town, but was still making juvenile mistakes and grappling with grief during his month of leave. This novel had complicated relationships between Travis and his ex-girlfriend, and a girl he wants to be better for – but also between himself and his mother, who has been worrying about her son since he left for Afghanistan a year ago. A beautiful, bittersweet novel that had me promising to read whatever Trish Doller comes up with next. . . 

'This is Not a Test' by Courtney Summers 

I always pitch this book as being a ‘horror story within a horror story’ – that Summers took an already dark and fascinating tale of a girl’s abuse at the hands of her father, but then added zombies to make a very different survival story is sheer genius. I think this is going to be a book with a slow-burn fan-base, and I truly believe that its popularity will continue to grow in 2013 as word-of-mouth continues to spread. 

Thief of Shadows’ by Elizabeth Hoyt 

Ohhhhh, Elizabeth Hoyt. I don’t think this historical romance author is physically capable of writing anything sub-par. And I must admit, I had my doubt with this fourth instalment of her ‘Maiden Lane’ series. After the deliciously devilish “Charming” Mickey O’Connor of ‘Scandalous Desires’, I didn’t think Hoyt could top that with a romance between the prickly society darling Lady Isabel Beckinhall and pious Winter Makepeace. But oh, how wrong I was! Pious on the outside, masked avenger by night and burning with desire for Isabel – this was one of Hoyt’s best of an already remarkable bunch. 

'The Age of Miracles' by Karen Thompson Walker

Thompson Walker’s debut is a thoroughly sinister one, in many respects. She examines a little change in the world, a ‘slowing’ and gaining of a few minutes in the day (which then stretches to a few more minutes, then hours and then entire stretches of daylight and darkness. . . ) and then she investigates all the repercussions, in people and the environment, but particularly in the world of teenager, Julia, in her sleepy California cul-de-sac. This book is fantastically wonderful, I could not put it down and once I finished reading I could not stop thinking about it. 


Tarcutta Wake’ by Josephine Rowe 

In ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’, the main character believes that “there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers,” – and I completely, 100% agree. How could I not, when it feels as though Josephine Rowe’s first book, ‘How a Moth Becomes a Boat’, was recommended to me by fate after I stumbled across it at my local library? Since then I have developed a wee literary crush on Ms Rowe, which reached a fever pitch after I read her latest collection of micro-fiction in ‘Tarcutta Wake’. In these short stories (indeed, shorter than most) Rowe grips your heart, takes your hand and leads you down a sometimes fantastical, often bittersweet path and offers you a small glimpse of a whole world. I love her, I’m making it my life’s mission to listen to hear read at least once next year and I am so sworn to consume anything else she writes from here on in. 

'Tiger Lily' by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Anderson dedicates this book to “the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts” – and I love that. Indeed, with Anderson’s reimagining of J.M Barrie’s infamous ‘Peter Pan’, she proves to readers that Wendy was barely a blip of a character, and it’s tomboyish Tiger Lily with strong mind and stubborn heart who is the real stand-out heroine of the story . . . I adored this. From Anderson’s writing, to Tinkerbell narrating and the imperfections of perpetual boy, Peter. This is a real gem of a book, and one of the finest YA novels to come out of 2012.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ by Ambelin Kwaymullina 

Just when the Dystopian genre was starting to feel hollow and tired, Kwaymullina comes out with a new series that combines Dystopian and Dreamtime, packs a powerful punch for Kwaymullina’s Indigenous background and prevailing protagonist in renegade Ashala Wolf. I can’t wait to return to the Firstwood in the second book, coming in August next year.

'Shadows' The Rephaim #1 by Paula Weston 

Oh man. I looooooooved this book. This is another one that breathed life back into the paranormal young adult scene; with a tricky memory plot, biblical angels with a vendetta and a burning romance to ignite the page. Rafa is probably one of my favourite characters to come out of 2012, and I am so excited for second book ‘Haze’ next year.

'After' Once series #4 by Morris Gleitzman 

I have loved Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Once’ series so very, very much. I call it ‘vital reading’ and I don’t mean that lightly – because these books hurt. They hurt to read because Gleitzman introduces us to these young characters with infectious likability, and then he breaks our hearts where they’re concerned. These books hurt to read because Gleitzman is writing about one of the darkest times in human history, and he does so unflinchingly (and sometimes uncomprehendingly) through the eyes of a young boy. They hurt, but they’re vital reading nonetheless because Gletizman is telling a story that must be told, and more importantly, must be somehow explained to a new generation grappling with the unfathomability of it all. With ‘After’, Gleitzman brings his triumphant series to an end and cements it as one of the new modern classics of Australian children’s literature. 

'Fire in the Sea' by Myke Bartlett 

Bartlett won The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing in 2011, and ‘Fire in the Sea’ is the product of that illustrious win. This was a really fantastic addition to the paranormal YA scene, proving yet again that Text has their finger on the YA pulse and that Myke Bartlett might just be a new Aussie YA author to watch. I loved our tough-as-nails protagonist, Sadie, the interesting Perth setting and the mythology intermixed with a, literal, Pandora’s Box of plot twists. I understand that Bartlett is working on a sequel, and for that I'd like to *squeeeeeeeal* for joy.  

Dark Companion’ by Marta Acosta 

I have been a fan of Ms Acosta’s since her ‘Casa Dracula’ series added a little flavour to the somewhat staid vampire genre. She bought a similarly fresh take to the overcrowded and same-same paranormal YA scene when she wrote ‘Dark Companion’ – an ode to Jane Eyre that heightens all the inherent creepiness of Brontë’s most famous work, but with a modern twist and flair that is all Acosta’s own. 

'Gunmetal Magic' Kate Daniels World #1 by Ilona Andrews 

OH! The angst of Andrea and Raphael! They’d both made so many mistakes in the past – to the point that their relationship seemed to be beyond saving. Thankfully, Ilona Andrews recognized that their problems were greater than would fill a secondary-plot in a ‘Kate Daniels’ book, so decided to give Andrea her very own spin-off in the Kate Daniels world. And this book was soooooooo satisfying, both for revealing Andrea as a kick-butt leading lady, and for teasing out the romantic complications of her and Raphael that was juicy enough to keep fans on edge and in delight.


'Friday Brown' by Vikki Wakefield 

I loved Wakefield’s debut ‘All I Ever Wanted’ – so I was curious to read if she could capture lightning in a bottle twice. And indeed, she did. The mark of a truly great novel is that the characters stay with you long after you’ve read the last page –by that reckoning, street kid Silence is still with me, his story still swirling around in my mind and ‘Friday Brown’ is a truly superb novel. Wakefield writes raw, messy and poignant young adult stories – she makes her young protagonists their own heroes (and sometimes villains) and her novels have a lasting effect on the reader.


'Quintana of Charyn' Lumatere Chronicles #3 by Melina Marchetta

I’m still thinking about this book, the conclusion to Marchetta’s epic ‘Lumatere Chronicles’ series. I’m still thinking about the cast of almost Shakespearian characters; the choices they made in this finale, and where they ended up. I’m still thinking about the curses that were broken, and the battles fought and won. I’m still hoping for a return to Skuldenore, because I so enjoyed Lady Celie’s short story. And I’m honestly not surprised that I’m still thinking on a book I read in September. Because this is Melina Marchetta; and she tends to write characters that haunt. And for further proof of this – read her latest blog in which she explains that the circumstances in Froi and Quintana’s life has got her thinking (and possibly writing?) on Jimmy Hailler (last seen in ‘Saving Francesca’, and on walkabout in ‘The Piper’s Son’)
The ‘Lumatere Chronicles’ has consequently become another perfect series – crystalized in its perfection for the sublime final instalment that was ‘Quintana of Charyn’. 

The Diviners’ by Libba Bray 

This novel spooked and delighted me – in equal measures. Set in the New York Jazz Age, and about a ghostly serial killer unleashed back onto our mortal plain, this is an epic first novel in a new series in which Bray follows a group of supernaturally gifted teenagers . . .  dark and compelling, this is a masterpiece first novel and I can’t wait to read how this series expands in coming books. You should also keep your eye out for a movie adaptation of this book (the rights were bought before it even hit shelves!). 


'Creepy and Maud' by Dianne Touchell

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved! It’s a quirky suburban love story about next-door-neighbours who fall in love via window messages and stolen glances, but it’s more the fact that they hope for love even though their respective parents’ romantic travesties should have them down-trodden and cynical. Watch out for Dianne Touchell – she writes wickedly smart characters with enviable voice and lyricism – she’s an Aussie YA author on the rise.

Saga’ Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 

This was my first really ‘hard-core’ graphic novel read, and I adored it. It is, essentially, a love story between Marko and Alana, soldiers from warring planets who have gone AWOL and started a family on the run. Their daughter, Hazel, narrates the tale of her birth and childhood from somewhere in the distant future (when she has experienced her fair share of heartbreak). It’s brilliant, and ‘Saga’ is a most apt title.  

Ask the Passengers’ by A.S. King 

I adore A.S. King – I've loved everything she has written and that now also goes for her latest offering in ‘Ask the Passengers’, about Astrid Jones who finds herself falling in love with a girl while simultaneously dealing with her mother’s wish that she remain a ‘small town girl’ with small town conventions. This is brilliant, especially for being one of the few LGBT novels to come out of 2012, but mostly for King’s cleverness and compassion for the teen experience. 


  1. Wow! Great list! So many to add to my TBR list, especially Me Before You. I've been meaning to read The Diviners for a while now, too...

  2. I LOVE TFIOS, The Diviners, and Ask the Passengers. Ever since I read your review, I've wanted to read Something Like Normal. Tiger Lily is on the TBR list as well. 2012 was a great year for books. Hopefully 2013 will be, too! (:

  3. Me Before You made my list of best reads for the year too. Ashala Wolf and Sea Hearts would have been on my highly recommended list if I had gotten around to writing it yet.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

| More