This is a rather delayed round-up of 2012, but better late than never. I'm sorely disappointed with my reading statistics for 2012 (102 books) and while it's understandable that I hardly had any time to read, I'd like 2013 to be better. Can't see how that's going to happen, but I've set myself a more manageable goal of 100 books for 2013 and it would be a tragedy if I couldn't even manage that.
I found some fantastic authors in 2012 and there's a number of books that have made it to my keepers shelf, so I wanted to take some time to share these with you all. These are by no means all books that were released in 2012, just my favourite of the year, so here goes my top eleven of the past year in the order in which they were reviewed:
1. Sweet Revenge by Nora Roberts (1988) (reviewed 29-4-2012 grade A+)
Given the sheer quantity of books that NR has published (over 200), the fact that I'm close to reading three-quarters of them and her genius at storytelling in general, there's a lot to choose from when picking my favourite. For a long time, Honest Illusions occupied that coveted spot but Sweet Revenge has by the tiniest margin knocked it off - at least, until I can get my hands on the former again for a re-read. Fantastic cast whose protagonists have possibly my all-time favourite occupation for fictional characters (thieves), brilliant writing, dialogue and just a wonderful feel-good story.
2. Now You See Me / Dead Scared by S. J. Bolton (2011 / 2012) (reviewed 7-5-2012 grade A / 26-6-2012 grade B+)
I'm not a huge fan of crime but my discovery of Ms Bolton this year has been a very welcome one. You can read all about how I started reading her books in my review of Awakening which itself very narrowly missed a placing on this list. Ms Bolton has the art of spooking without terrifying down to a fine art and I'm captivated by the relationship between Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury. I'm looking forward to being spooked out again with her next book Like This, For Ever which is due to be released in April, featuring the wonderfully unreliable aforementioned Lacey and I'm intrigued about where she and Joesbury will be taken next.
3. The Siren / The Angel / The Prince by Tiffany Reisz (2011 / 2012 / 2012) (reviewed 20-6-2012 grade A-/B+ / 18-9-2012 grade B+ / to be reviewed soon!)
I've spouted scores of praise about Tiffany Reisz's work and not for nothing. E. L. James may have taken publishing by storm and be the most talked about author of 2012 as erotica has become mainstream, but in my opinion, it's Ms Reisz that really deserves the attention. The quality of the writing is almost unmatched by anything I've ever read and her characters are ones that you can't help but come to care about. The sex and BDSM may be too much for some readers, but Ms Reisz tackles this alternative lifestyle with aplomb and it's not to be dismissed until you've read her work for yourself. The Mistress makes it into my Most Anticipated for 2013 list.
4. The Selection by Kiera Cass (2012) (reviewed 2-7-2012, grade A-)
This is the only YA to make my Best Of 2012 list which makes it pretty special in itself. Then I count how many YA books I've read in total this year and including The Selection, there's only eight which is pretty shameful. Nevertheless, The Selection would have made it even if I'd read eighty and it stands out amongst all the YA dystopian fiction that's currently all vying for attention.
5. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares (2010) (reviewed 4-7-2012, grade A-)
Ann Brashares writes with a poignancy that has made her Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series required reading for all teens everywhere. My Name is Memory is an ambitious work that could have so easily dunked for being too ambitious, but instead soars on the strength and beauty of the writing. The open ending grates on my nerves and I keep reading rumours that there's going to be a sequel, but I have mixed feelings on whether that would be a good thing. I'm not one to turn down more Brashares, but I think the book would stand better alone.
6. Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex (2012) (reviewed 18-7-2012, grade B)
Pretty much my first foray into ship romances and Ms Essex has set the bar high. Her Masters in Nautical Archaeology has been put to good use and Almost a Scandal has the best level of research and technical detail I've read in a fictional novel this year. In addition, it's got one of my favourite romance-novel tropes: girls masquerading as guys. When that girl is a fierce, tomboy heroine who proves time and time again that she's every bit as worthy as her male counterparts, you've got a heck of a story.
7. Lucky in Love / At Last / Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis (all 2012) (reviewed 9-10-2012 grade B+ / 11-12-2012 grade A- / 30-7-2012 grade A)
Ms Shalvis has restored my love for and faith in contemporary romance and while all three books have different grades, they're all fantastic for their own reasons and the grades probably just reflect my moods at the time. If I read them back to back, I don't think I'd be able to choose between them. She has a freshness that I adore and guarantees to make me laugh like a madwoman. I've liked her on facebook and to the joy of all her readers, she's always posting pictures of half-naked hotties designed to make us drool. If that isn't customer-service, then I don't know what is.
8. Forbidden by Nicola Cornick (2012) (reviewed 24-8-2012 grade A-)
The sexual tension is one of the things that makes this book. I've read a few rags-to-riches historicals this year and even more books where the hero and heroine start out hating each other. Forbidden definitely tops the lot for the former, though it faces some stiff competition in the latter category. There's a reason that tropes work when done well and Ms Cornick manages them beautifully.
9. Key of Light by Nora Roberts (2003) (reviewed 11-9-2012 grade A)
The first book of NR's Key trilogy and it's only because my local library doesn't have this book in stock that I haven't started the series until I got my own copy. Three women brought together by fate to fulfil a quest that generations before them have failed; it's my dream come true. Malory might be my least favourite of the trio, but it can't be denied that this is a fantastic opener to the series. There's enough history and Celtic legend in the mix to ground the plot in the possibility of some truth (I've yet to Google it) and that's what makes NR such a great storyteller.
10. Waiting for Nick by Nora Roberts (1997) (reviewed 18-12-2012 grade A)
The six-book Stanislaski series was started and finished this year and I think it's hands-down NR's most consistently great series - of those that I've finished, of course. Freddie and Nick's story is the one that I waited for and it didn't disappoint. I thrive on those books that return to the same set of characters who've already found their Happy Ever After to see how the years have been to them and NR doesn't hesitate to turn down such an opportunity. Worth the wait and make sure you read in order!
11. Passion by Lisa Valdez (2005) (reviewed 19-12-2012 grade A-)
Probably my first and only historical erotica so far and I don't see how it can get much hotter than this! I can see why Passion has achieved the reputation it has in Romance-land and just for that, it was worth reading. I have yet to finish Patience, but it has yet to meet the mark which is a damned shame. If you've got a high squick-o-meter, then put this on your immediate TBR list.
So there you have it: my top eleven/sixteen books of 2012. I'm not a big in-the-now-reader, but I'm quite proud of the fact that nine of the books mentioned were published in 2012. Of course, it helps that eight of the nine were NetGalley titles and there's no way that I would have been able to read so many new/upcoming releases without being a member, for which I am eternally grateful. Despite only having read half the number of books I managed in 2011, 2012 was a great year for reading for me. I only hope that 2013 brings the same.
What were your keepers for 2012? Have you read any of mine?