Friday, 21 December 2012

My Top Five Books of 2012

Perhaps I should have done the books first, being a writer and all, but I was in the mood to write about films when it occurred to me that I wanted to do these two lists. Anyway, deciding on the books for the list was actually a lot easier for me than the films, because I've been so very disappointed by so many of the books I was desperate to read this year. I also hit the slightly major snag of most of the books I read this year not actually being released this year. So I've tried to eliminate them, though not entirely successfully. So, once again, in reverse order, I present to you my top five of 2012.

5 - Divergent by Veronica Roth
Yeah, this is one of those not entirely successful eliminations. This actual copy, however (the UK paperback) was only printed in February of this year, so it totally counts. This is a young adult dystopian, but this one felt a bit different to the others. Or maybe I read it before I got sick of all the same-y dystopian books. Either way, it was a really good read once I got into it, I tore through it and went in search of the sequel, Insurgent, only to discover it was not due to be published in the UK for another couple of months! Needless to say, I was unimpressed. What I found really interesting about this book, though, is that I enjoyed it so much while disliking or being indifferent to essentially all of the characters in it. I didn't like Tris, I didn't like any of her family or friends, even her enemies were a bit crap. The only one I came close to liking was the love interest, Four, but I started to go off him in the second book. It's strange, I didn't find the characters especially likeable or even interesting, and yet I loved the book. Funny how these things work out sometimes.

4 - What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
I actually only read this last week, so you may well remember my review of it. Essentially, every human being is born with two souls, but one of them fades away around the time the child hits adolescense. Except for when that doesn't happen, like with Addie and Eva. And that's just not good. I've only just realised that one of the big questions I was left with after this book is why people suddenly developed two souls. As far as I can recall, it's never addressed in the book, and I found that a little distracting. It almost makes me want to strike this one from the list and slot something else in, but not quite. I did really enjoy this book. It was a stand-alone book that was so bursting with potential that there was room for a sequel, rather than being 300+ pages of setting up for a new series, which so many of the books I read this year were guilty of. I think what I liked so much is that it was such a unique concept (to me, at least) and it was great to see that, especially when it was written so well. I'll be definitely keeping an eye out for Kat Zhang's books in the future.

3 - Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar
I have literally no words to describe this book. It was just so odd. The basic premise is that four people set up a company that apologises to people. You hire them to apologise to someone you might have wronged. I can't really say anymore without spoiling it, because it's a strange and quite intricate book, but it's beautifully written. If beautiful is the right word for it. I honestly don't know what to say about it, except that it affected me quite a bit. I'm not much of a "feeler" but this book definitely struck a chord. It's not for the faint-hearted. Or anyone with a sensitive disposition. There are horrendous moments, both graphically described and hinted at just enough to unsettle you. I was wary when I discovered that it was written in German originally, and that I was buying the translation, because I have this theory that translated books lose something along the way, but the writing was razor-sharp and suited the book perfectly. Also, check out that cover. I would have bought it for that cover even if the blurb had bored me completely.

2 - The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
Another very recent read, and another one that didn't disappoint. I was browsing through Goodreads - which is never a good idea for me - and came across a blurb that contained the words "Amish" and "vampires." I was sold. We actually don't see very much of the vampires in the book, it's more the threat that they impose on this isolated community and how the people deal with it. It wasn't a perfect book, there's no such thing (probably) but I very much enjoyed reading it. I'm not so sure on the idea of it having a sequel. The ending of the book (which I thought was a little rushed) definitely leaves room for one and sets up some potential plot points, but I'm not sure. I think this book would have strongly suited an ambiguous ending, I think it would have been quite fitting. Still, that won't stop me from reading the book when it comes out. I'm quite looking forward to revisiting the world and spending some more time with Katie, the main character, though less enthused about being reunited with Alex, who was a bit bland for my liking. I feel I should point out again that I really did like this book.

1 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Yeah, so, you remember way back up at the top of the page where I said I'd failed to keep the books on this list to ones that were released in 2012? This is the big one. I went back and forth on including it, but this is the best book I've read this year. Not only is it the best, it's also my favourite. It needed to be recognised, and I couldn't bring myself to name any other book in the top spot. This book is, if you'll excuse the pun, simply magical. I don't know how Erin Morgenstern has crafted such a beautiful, engaging and intriguing piece of prose, but it truly is spectacular. There is a multitude of characters, but never once did I get confused or forget about any of them, and - perhaps most importantly - they all played a role in the story. There wasn't a single stock character or someone shoehorned in just to deliver one piece of information. I'm not a good enough writer to explain how excellent this book is or to describe how I felt about it (I can only do that if I'm criticising something) , all I can say is that you have to read it. Don't even think about picking up another book until you've read this one. It's long, but don't be put off by that. I really don't think there is any such thing as a perfect book, but this one comes pretty damn close.

Honourable Mentions
- This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers - a take on the zombie novel that I've never seen before and well worth a read.

- The Help by Kathryn Stockett - a beautiful book that I couldn't let myself include because it was published in 2009.

- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - my opinions about this book and its film adaptation are splashed all over this blog, as you may have noticed, but, despite reading it this year, it too was published a fair while back. 2008, in fact.

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