Leslie's Favorite Reads of 2012 - Robots, Zombies, and Super Soldiers

Happy 2013! We still don't have jetpacks or personal flying cars, but we do have books and books and more books to keep us occupied until those futuristic achievements come to light. In 2012 I managed to read 84 books, which trailed my year goal of 100 but was nearly 20 more books than in 2011. I think that's pretty good considering 2012 was a year of change and adjustment with a new job that took up more time despite the shorter commute, new friends and new hobbies.

In those 84 books, 13 got a 5 star rating from me on Goodreads, another 45 got 4 stars, 20 received 3 stars and 6 got 2 stars. Luckily I read no 1 star books in 2012 and I hope that's a track record I can keep going into 2013. Last year was a year of surprises - books I thought I would love disappointed me while those I had no real expectations for knocked me off my feet. After some contemplating, these came out as my top 10 reads of 2012.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson

Is anyone surprised that my favorite read of the year involved robots? But it wasn’t just that this book is about robots. This book is about creepy robots wanting to destroy the human race and robots that have become cognizant of their own existence. There are moments of sheer horror and other moments of cheer-out-loud triumphs. Along with Amped, this book turned me into a huge supporter of Daniel H Wilson in any of his future endeavors, even if he does give me nightmares.

Feed by Mira Grant

If I were giving an award to the one piece of not-real-life culture I consumed this year that left the most emotional scar tissue, Feed would be it. I can’t even talk about this book (or write about it in this case) without tearing up. This book is so much more than another zombie story. So much more and so devastating in it’s amazing storytelling.

Dearly, Departed & Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

This series knocked me out with Dearly, Departed. I never thought in a million years that someone would be able to turn a zombie into, not only a romantic hero, but an attractive to human females romantic hero (sorry, R from Warm Bodies). I loved the steampunk elements, the adventure, the future Earth where global warming has had a solid effect on global politics and where humans reside, but it was Bram, the sweet, adorably awkward soldier who just happened to also be a zombie that won me over and left this a book I constantly want to re-read. The follow up had its flaws, mostly in its attempt to be overly complicated, but the prime elements of a kick butt female heroine and, of course, Zombie Bram made all those flaws disappear in my eyes.

 Partials by Dan Wells

Oh, Samm. He was one of many boys in books who surprised me by worming his way into my heart and making me stay up until way past my bed time to read about his adventures. Toss in a strong female lead who is devastatingly smart and the emotional turmoil tied with having a dying population faced with the death of all their new born children, and Partials became one of my favorite starts to a new series in 2012.

Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson (review to come)

I had no expectations going into this book, so when it did a hard left into crazy town about 2/3rds of the way through, I was floored, but completely on board. Even if it hadn’t taken that strange and unexpected turn into madness, this book is a fascinating study of synesthesia and its’ effects on daily life. I might have a personal soft spot for books set in psych wards, but Ultraviolet didn’t treat her characters as unworthy of society or misfits. It’s a smart book with a crazy ending. I love when I’m surprised from a book I thought was just going to be “meh” level.

Locke & Key Volume 3: Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

I didn’t think this collaboration between horror writer Joe Hill and spectacular comic artist Gabriel Rodriguez could get any better, but volume 3 proved me wrong. The illustrations became even more detailed to the point that I expected characters to jump out of the pages at any given moment. Hill continues to tell a subtly horrifying story about a family trying to hold itself together while fighting forces they don’t even know they’re facing. And Dodge remains terrifying.

Altered by Jennifer Rush

This was one of those books that I requested through an ARC tour site because it sounded kind of interesting, but I was weary because it involved genetically enhanced boys looked in secret facilities, the sort of story I was coming across more and more. But somewhere along the way, Rush surprised me and created a story that felt new even though all the elements had been done before. There were twists that surprised me and all of it was nicely wrapped up, so I left feeling satisfied and yet still looking forward to future sequels.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Divergent didn’t impress me much, but it had a bit of an uphill battle. I had just finished Dearly, Departed and really just wanted to curl up in a comfy spot and re-read it all over again. Inside I was still fangirling Zombie Bram, so the appeal of the stand-offish Four just didn’t hit me. Plus Tris was a bit of an idiot, which I never really care for. But still I got Insurgent from the library and then, without my head full of zombie soldiers and steampunk heroines, I fell in love with this destroyed Chicago and it’s broken factions. The world became more appeal, Tris stopped being so flighty and got some guts, and I finally noticed Four as kind of awesome. Then the ending left me cursing and wanting to through this door-stopper of a book at the wall. When does the next book come out?

Everneath by Brodi Ashton (review to come)

Another book that I’m surprised on this list because I thought it was just going to be a romance story with fantasy elements and all the common plot beats to tie it into the Persephone myth. So I was surprised to find myself so pulled in that I read the entire book in five hours and then wanting to spend more time with the characters. A bad guy who is an oscillating shade of grey and a sweet good guy with a broken heart didn’t win me over as much as Nikki. Even though she was broken and trying to carve out a temporary spot for herself in the world, she had strength beyond many YA heroines and never became a whiny mess. While the ending might not have left me emotionally distraught, it did leave me intrigued for the potential of the inevitable sequel.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was a book club pick and most of the members were unimpressed. Perhaps it was the sudden surprise of time travel peeking in, but I enjoyed the tale and the creepy pictures that went along with it. It just stops instead of coming to a satisfying conclusion, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this clever idea. There’s something about a book that comes with its own reference materials.


Biggest Disappointments

Reached by Ally Condie (review to come)

I haven’t been able to bring myself to review this one yet though I read it a few weeks ago. The Matched series had become one of my go-to recommendations for YA dystopia with a concept and execution of a world that fascinated me. Yes, I might have mostly been sucked in by Ky and Ky alone, but I enjoyed Cassia’s development as well and seeing her become more independent and less of a pawn. Then came Reached, essentially a giant mess of a book with a suddenly dominant plot involving a virus that seemed to come out of nowhere. Ky and Cassia spend most of the book separated, so the emotional chemistry that seemed to make the first two books was lacking. It was all incredibly bleak and overly complicated, way too long and often boring. It just wasn’t the satisfying ending I was hoping from Condie.