There is both good news and bad news about my reading accomplishments of 2012. The good part is that I made it past my goal of reading 100 books. Hooray, go me! The bad news is that I utterly failed at writing a review for each and every one of those 100. This makes me sad. When I look back at my diligent reviews from the earlier months of last year I find them very comforting. I like having that written record of what I was feeling in the moments or days right after I finished a book, especially if it was one I really love. Time makes these things blurry and I’m left with more of an overall impression, rather than the specifics of what a story meant to me.
The moment for writing detailed reviews for everything I read in 2012 has passed, but I do want to make note of some of my favorites that I never got around to reviewing here. Because they deserve that. There were so many lovely surprises and thrills and books that still make me sigh or smile even months after having finished them. Does that sound cheesy? I guess that’s just how I am about books I love.
Reading a Marchetta book is kind of like stepping into a maelstorm of emotion. For me anyway. That makes it really hard to come up with intelligent things to say about it, especially seven months after reading. I never expected to feel so fond of Tom Mackee after reading Saving Francesca, but boy did I ever care. I ended up caring about his whole family as though they were people I knew or people I was or might have been. It’s very hard to explain so I generally don’t. I just tell people that this book should be read. I read all of Melina Marchetta’s books last year, and this one stands out as possibly my favorite. And that is saying a lot.
I love immersing myself in a nice, long series of books. The Maisie Dobbs books were recommended by a friend at just the right time. I read the first one early in the summer… and didn’t stop until I finished the series sometime in the fall. They accompanied me on vacation, lunch breaks, car rides… Maisie was my companian pretty much everywhere for those months.
Maisie is an interesting character to read about. The books are as much about her personal progression as they are about the mysteries she solves. She was a nurse in the first world war and, though the books start years after the war is over, Maisie is still struggling to recover from her experiances and the loss of the man she loved. Her personal issues mirror much of what England itself was struggling with, and many of her cases directly relate to what happened during the war or its many lingering consequences.
Maisie is strong without being perfect. Her powers of perception may be what help her put together the pieces of a case, but they frequently cause her trouble in her personal life. It’s easy to get frustrated with her at times, but Maisie is constantly progressing and that’s what makes her wonderful to read about. Seeing her heal and grow and try to change is what’s at the heart of these books, interwoven into each and every mystery that she solves.
This is a hard book to write about because it deals with so many of life’s small intricacies. It’s about bullying and how even small cruelties can impact lives, but it’s about more than that too. I want to say it’s about how we can rise above all of that but that’s not quite right and it sounds corny. This book is imaginative and funny and depressing all at once. I’m definitely glad to put it on this list, despite not being quite sure what to say about it. I forget why I put it on my to-read list, all I know is I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.
Sometimes I forget that I like short stories because of how much I love long ones. I get caught up in series and continuation and waiting and EPIC EVERYTHING. And then a book like this comes along and manages to smack me in the face with its awesomeness even though the stories are all only a few pages long.
As someone who writes (Occasionally. With much struggle.) this book was inspirational. I loved the handwritten notes in the margins and I appreciated the distinct style and humor of each author. The stories they tell are often dark but also playful and always interesting. It’s a bit like stepping onto a private writing playground and getting a tour.
This was the year of Maggie Stiefvater for me. Remember at the end of 2011 when I read The Scorpio Races and said I was adding all of her books to my to-read list?Well I did. And then I read them. And they were amazing. Seriously, I can’t get over how much I wish I could just crawl inside her books and live there. The way she puts together words makes me want to cry and shout with happiness all at the same time. I can’t get over how poetic her books are without EVER slipping into purple prose. How can they be so sentimental without being sappy? I don’t know! These are things that make me scratch my head. So, yeah. I love all her books. I could probably count them all as notable reads of this year, but this trilogy is most notable because I loved it best despite being extremely reluctant to read it. Why? Because of the werewolves, of course.
Here’s the thing. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of books that live in the paramormal teen romance section at the bookstore. It boggles my mind a little bit that this section even exists because when I used to browse through the YA section it was just books all together, living in harmony. But now YA is all chopped up into these little subgroups which is nice if you’re looking for something in particular but also confusing and sometimes a little misleading. The how and why of this sort of branding is something I could go on and on about, but the point is, I thought I was tired of werewolves. I just didn’t want to hear about them anymore. I also didn’t want to hear about falling in love with one and Shiver is quite clearly about a girl who falls in love with a werewolf. But then I read The Scorpio Races and then I read The Raven Boys and Lament and I had Shiver just sitting on my shelf. Waiting. So I read it. And I really liked it.
Did that feel anticlamactic? Okay, so I liked it and I was definitely on board with Stiefvater’s version of werewolves and I was pretty much on board with why you might fall in love with one, but I also just liked it. I didn’t love it. Do you hear the “yet” that is hovering in the air? Because then I read Linger and suddenly everything clicked into place for me. That happens sometimes for me with a series. I need the whole thing. In this case I needed Cole and I needed to read about Sam on his own and I needed to read about Isabel and see Grace through someone else’s eyes. And once all that happened I was hooked. I read Linger in one day. And then I read Forever the next.
It’s impossible to talk about everything I like about Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style. Though they are very different in most ways, both she and Melina Marchetta are authors who tend to capture my attention and devotion with the details of their writing. They way they put together words. It leaves me breathless and hopeful and amazed that words in the right hands can have so much meaning. That’s all I can say about that. But there are also some very specific things that make me like these books.
Backstory. There’s a lot of backstory involved in this trilogy. Mostly Sam’s, but also Cole’s and a little bit of Grace. Some of it is important to the plot, but most of it is important because of how it helps the characterization. So much of what makes Sam who he is, is because of things that have happened in his past, and these scenes unfold slowly. They are tucked into unrelated moments and brought on by things that trigger memories for him. It’s not seamless exactly, because it’s done with intention. But these memories and flashbacks are never misplaced. They are always important and vivid and worthy.
Disappearing parents. This is kind of a thing in a lot of YA books and it has always bothered me, but Grace’s parents are the exception. Their disapearing act is actually a focus in the story. It’s a source of sadness and frustration and they are never forgotten about. It’s an issue, not just a convenient way to get them out of the picture.
Romance and love. Romance is many different things for many different people. I loved reading about Grace and Sam. I loved reading about how they felt for each other. I didn’t care that they essentially fell in love right away. And I know love at first sight is normally a pet peeve of mine but it worked in this case because there were reasons, okay? And it made sense to me and it felt real and it felt like something other than lust. There are a lot of complexities involved in each and every relationship in these books and that was something I really appreciated.
And now this has practially turned into it’s own stand alone review so I’ll stop. All I can say is that these are going on my all time favorites list. I’ve already started re-reading Shiver and I’m noticing all sorts of things that slipped past me the first time around. Books that are worth revisiting are the very best kind.
I’m trying to read 100 books again this year. I’m already a little bit behind in my reading, so I can’t really promise that my reviewing habits are going to improve, but I would like to try. I can’t wait to see what my favorites of 2013 are going to be.