The Books I Loved and Hated in 2012

Posted on Dec 27, 2012 in Book Reviews & Reading, Highlight | 11 comments

After last year’s modest reading goals, I was more ambitious this year, aiming to read at least a couple books a month. I didn’t anticipate a three-month bout of terrible toddler sleeping that pretty much ate up all my reading energy, though, so let’s see how I fared.

  1. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. Ok, so I started the year with crushing disappointment. So many people love this book, and I just can’t see why. Here’s what I wrote upon finishing it: “There’s no edge to the story. No twists and turns. I found myself eager to see the movie in hopes it would have met the potential the book failed to meet. No dice.” Sigh.
  2. Wishes and Stitches: A Cypress Hollow Yarn, by Rachael Herron. Mmm. Knitting romance. So delicious.
  3. Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson. My mom recommended this to me before I started hearing about it, and I’m glad I listened both to her and to the buzz. This psychological thriller was thoroughly engaging.
  4. The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The author writes one of the best Twitter feeds around, and this was the second of her books that I’ve read. It’s a YA paranormal story, and it was good.
  5. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. I think I chose this book by its cover, not knowing it was, or would soon be, a raging bestseller. I thought it was another YA paranormal romance, but it’s a book for adults. (It took me several confused chapters to relax into that.) Like many raging bestsellers, this one fell flat for me. It was too long, and tedious in places. I’m pretty sure I’ll read the second book in the trilogy at some point, now that it’s out, but I keep putting it off.
  6. I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore. Furthering my quest for a gripping YA novel, this one was a horrible disappointment. I fell short of totally hating it, but I don’t recommend it.
  7. Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Then, finally, deliverance. This is a truly outstanding novel of YA dystopia.
  8. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare. They’re making a movie out of this one, I think, and I hope it’s better than the book. Another raging bestseller I didn’t like.
  9. Matched, by Ally Condie. This is the first book in a trilogy I completed this year, and though I found the final instalment wanting, I absolutely loved this first book. Unlike many YA dystopic novels with a strong female lead, this one isn’t violent. The pacing and feel of this book was refreshing and fabulous, and disturbing in all the right ways.
  10. Crossed, by Ally Condie. An outstanding follow-up to Matched.
  11. I Am Forbidden, by Anouk Markovits. This was the first book I read with the From Left to Write online book club I joined. And it was a doozy. A brilliant tale of ultra-Orthodox Jews during and after the Second World War, it haunted me while I read it and well after I finished. It made me examine and question my identity as a Jew and my relationship with the extreme practitioners of the religion that informs my ethnic identity, but which I reject as a spiritual element in my life.
  12. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth. This follow-up to Divergent wasn’t as strong, but was still excellent. I’m eagerly awaiting the final novel of the trilogy.
  13. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. This second From Left to Write selection couldn’t be more unlike the first, and I also thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been one of the most talked-about novels of the year, with good reason. Falling neatly into the genre of psychological thriller, it’s written with almost shocking brilliance. (My post about this book continues to be one of the most visited posts on my blog this year. Lots and lots of people looking for spoilers [I don't give any].)
  14. Redshirts, by John Scalzi. Where Maureen Johnson writes one of my favourite Twitter feeds, John Scalzi writes one of my favourite blogs. I’ve read quite a few of his sci-fi novels, and though this isn’t my favourite, it’s still quite wonderful. And it’s crap at the beginning; if I hadn’t been familiar with his work I would have put it down in a huff, but I kept going expecting redemption, and I got it. If you’ve ever even just kinda enjoyed Star Trek, read it. (I was sent a review copy of this book by Raincoast Books after I tweeted about it. Win.)
  15. Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. I was surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed this book. I don’t often gravitate to YA fantasy, but reviews of this kept drawing me in, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. Cashore is a master world-builder, and I just loved the characters she created.
  16. Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore. Despite loving Graceling, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book, which was not quite a sequel to Graceling but concerned some of the characters introduced in that book. Naturally, I loved it. I couldn’t put it down.
  17. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. This is the book I’ve recommended most in 2012. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the non-fiction story of a black woman whose malignant cells were used for research over sixty years ago, without her knowledge or consent. That research led to medical leaps like the polio vaccine, and Skloot tells the story of Henrietta and her children, and of medical science and medical ethics as they’ve evolved over decades. It’s a gripping, fascinating, at times infuriating tale. A must read.
  18. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. It took me months to read this book. I just couldn’t get into it. The writing wasn’t bad, but the story just fell flat to me. It was almost like the writing was too good for the plot. I’m not sure why I kept going back to it, but I won’t be reading the sequels.
  19. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Most awesome first chapter, full stop. I was so excited for this book about Hiro Protagonist and pizza delivery. Alas, the book slowly, and then quickly, descended into a slog through an ill-advised, compulsive and indulgent exploration of historical linguistics that was so painfully boring that it couldn’t even be redeemed by the author’s brilliant and prescient handling of a social internet that didn’t yet exist at the time he wrote the book in the late ’80s. Skip this one and go straight to Cryptonomicon.
  20. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I can not wait to read this book to my son. It’s downright scary, and also beautiful and poignant and clever and moving. Possibly my favourite middle-grade book.
  21. Reached, by Ally Condie. I was very excited about this conclusion to the Matched trilogy. Though it was satisfying, and I did enjoy seeing the three protagonists really come into their own, it seemed to go off the rails pretty early, leading to a slow story that lacked the urgency of either of the first two novels.
  22. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin. So good. So good. Cronin is a masterful storyteller, and I’m very curious to see where the story will go after this second novel in his epic trilogy.
  • http://realnani.blogspot.com/ Nancy Cavillones

    I’ve only read two of the books on this list: I am Forbidden and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I wasn’t a part of FL2W yet but I decided to read I am Forbidden after you wrote about it, I think. I loved it, and I had the same self-exploration afterwards. The story of Henrietta Lacks was amazing..I was totally sucked in. Definitely one of my top 5 books I read this year! Now, I have to go write my own blog post about the books I read this year…

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    I’m looking forward to reading your round-up!

  • http://twitter.com/cookoorikoo shana lee hampton

    i’m doing to add a few things from this list to my to read list…

  • http://realnani.blogspot.com/ Nancy Cavillones
  • Carrie Bishop

    I am super excited to add some of these to my list! I loved Divergent too – and I have Matched, I need to start it! happy new year!

  • http://www.ihanna.nu iHanna

    I’m reading #13 right now and agree with you that it’s a great book. Love your book list! Will add #15 & #17 to my to-read-list, the first book of Cronin is already on my list!

    My recommendation to you, since you gave me the Hungergames long before it came to Sweden, is the Swedish book The Circle – I think you’ll like it! By Sara B. Elfgren & Mats Strandberg.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    Thank you, Hanna! Now that I’ve read a little about it, I CAN’T WAIT to read The Circle! Hm. I wonder if it’s out in some other English-speaking country yet… I will investigate!

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    I’d love to know what you think of Matched!

  • http://www.ihanna.nu iHanna

    According to amazon it’s out but they don’t sell it, except the kindle edition if you read in that way. The second book is already out in Swedish and the last & third will be published this year here. :-)

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    It’s available on Kobo! http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Circle/book-sWxBQraqjkWZr2J72lF1nA/page1.html?s=uuuonZ5Zm06sl_UN1u5JRg&r=4
    Ok, now I want to drop the book I’m in the middle of so I can start it right away. Thanks again!

  • Max Opray

    I also loved Gone Girl, so will have to trust your recommendations with some of the others and give them a go. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sounds right up my alley!