Penny's Year End Review for 2012

We are well in to 2013 and the lists for upcoming books this year is already swelling uncontrollably! I still have to write this Best of 2012! This is the End of Year Review I used last year, and while I already wrote about the Top 5 Audio Books, here is the fully compiled list(s) based on my reading done in 2012, using this End of Year Review format.

reading by fire

 I scheduled a few days off towards the end of 2012 to sit at home and quietly enjoy some serious reading time. Much of it was happily done by the fire!

Best Books Read in 2012

These are in no particular order, I think choosing that way would cause me pain. :-) But I do see that the order appears to go from the last (best) one read.

Going through the list of books read in 2012 – wow! I read some really great reads! And So many were from debut authors!

  1. The Silence of Bonaventure, by Rita Leganski
  2. Sutton, by J. R. Moehringer
  3. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
  4. City of Women, by David R. Gillham
  5. Tigers in Red Weather, by Liza Klaussmann
  6. The Whipping Club, by Deborah Henry
  7. Heft, by Liz Moore
  8. A Land More Kind than Home, by Wiley Cash
  9. The Dry Grass of August, by Anna Jean Mayhew
  10. A Good American, by Alex George
  11. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar
  12. Faith, by Jennifer Haigh
  13. The Lost Saints of Tennessee, by Amy Franklin-Willis
  14. Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, by Kristina McMorris

Honourable Mentions

Again, while reviewing all the books read last year, there are some that do require honourable mention as they were very, very good. And in the case of the first two receiving mention they initiated me in to the land of the Short Story. These two collections were truly wonderful! Author Amy Franklin-Willis (mentioned above) recommended Mudbound and yes! absolutely deserves an honourable mention!

  1. Mennonites Don’t Dance, by Darcie Friesen Hossack
  2. The Divinity Gene, by Matthew J. Trafford
  3. Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan

Most Disappointing Book(s) Read in 2012

  1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. So not what it was marketed to be about! (Google! Google! Google!)
  2. Umbrella, by Will Self. You know that one had to be in the list! I still need to eat tripe though.
  3. Obedience, by Jacqueline Yallop. Couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
  4. The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti. Such a gorgeous cover, and great premise to the story, but it simply just did not live up to the expectation.
  5. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards. The narration was terrible, and probably only added to my frustration with the “good doctor”.
  6. The Detour, by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Such a great premise, but the best parts were at the very, very end and by then it was too late to redeem itself.
  7. Lucky Bastard, by S.G. Browne. Total guy-book, not to my taste at all.
  8. Toby’s Room, by Pat Barker. Ugh.
  9. The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg. I am going to include it here in this section. I was terribly disappointed by this book, both with the characters and the writing.

Most Surprisingly Good Book Read in 2012

Most surprisingly? Hmmmm! This one is a toughie for this year! I guess if it had to go to just one book, I would choose The Lighthouse, by Alison Moore. It was a book short-listed for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. All the books nominated were read by the Literary Hoarders this year, thanks to our BookerMarks collaboration. After slogging through and enduring some of the worst books I’ve ever read, The Lighthouse was fantastic! Loved so much of it! So yes, I would definitely have to choose The Lighthouse.

The Books I recommended the most in 2012

  1. Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer. Exceptionally exquisite storytelling!
  2. A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash. Listen to this one! It just adds that much more to the greatness!
  3. Heft, by Liz Moore.
  4. Faith, by Jennifer Haigh. A book that definitely should be read!
  5. A Good American, by Alex George.

The Best Series Read in 2012

Thanks to discovering Maisie Dobbs last year and also to Book Club Girl, I discovered the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd. Book Club Girl hosted a Read-a-Long-With-Bess and I participated. There were four (4) books in the series, and I felt that A Bitter Truth (Bess Crawford #3) was the best of the bunch! But also, Susan Elia MacNeal has released a fabulous series as well! I’ve only read the 1st in the bunch, but Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and Maggie Hope are both fantastic!

Favourite new author(s) discovered in 2012

Oh for certain….Jennifer Haigh, Wiley Cash, Deborah Henry, Alex George, Anna Jean Mayhew and Amy Franklin-Willis. Yes, I’m certain I’ve left some off, but these were the authors of my favourite books in 2012 as well.

Favourite Cover

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Mysterious women and covers seemed to be among the favourites for me this year! I picked up Anna from Away and The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. first and foremost because of their covers. The City of Women’s cover is just simply beautiful as is the very striking and awesome cover of Mennonites Don’t Dance, the short story collection by Darcie Friesen Hossack. I couldn’t keep myself from constantly staring at the cover of The Haunting of Maddy Clare while reading. Just love the cover!

Worst Cover

And there were certainly a few book covers that rank in the Worst Cover category as well! This year, there were some truly awful book covers! These covers completely lacked everything creative and good and did nothing to make you want to run out and grab yourself a copy! For some featured here, they truly did injustice to the stories in-between their horrible covers.

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Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2012

Ah, here is where I get to tell you about some of the best storytelling I’ve read! This year I read books that read like butter and silk and golden toffee pouring off the page. Again, this is in no particular order:

  1. A Good American, by Alex George
  2. Faith, by Jennifer Haigh
  3. A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash
  4. The Silence of Bonaventure, by Rita Leganski
  5. Sutton, by J. R. Moehringer

Most Memorable Characters

Well if Academy Awards were given out to characters in books, the golden statue would absolutely go to our following:

  1. Pastor Chambliss! A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash. (dude, you are appearing ALL OVER my Best of for 2012!)
  2. Stump from A Land More Kind Than Home. He doesn’t speak, but plays such an enormous part of this story.
  3. June Bentley Watts, or “Jubie” from The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. She’s amazing.
  4. Maggie Hope, the heroine & spy in Susan Elia MacNeal’s series. She’s a fabulous heroine!
  5. Arthur, from Heft by Liz Moore.
  6. Christian Brother Ryder from The Whipping Club, by Deborah Henry. You will never enjoy seeing that man’s name on the page. Ever. There is a book trailer for The Whipping Club, and Eric Roberts (brilliantly and perfectly) portrays Brother Ryder. Astonishing. Chilling.
  7. Adrian from The Whipping Club, by Deborah Henry. The tragedy of his life still remains with me.
  8. Bonaventure Arrow from the Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski. That boy will shred your heart.
  9. Flavia de Luce, featured in I am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley. She’s awesome!
  10. Harry, the beloved, beloved golden retriever in Brian McGrory’s life and tale, Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man.
  11. Vivian from Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I miss Vivian terribly.
  12. An honourable mention goes to Red Murdock from Anna from Away, by D.R. MacDonald too. He was a great character so vividly described in dealing with his sorrow and loss.
  13. And one cannot leave out Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout and Jubie from The Dry Grass of August were quite similar in their awareness and in their wonderfulness as well!

The Books that had the Greatest Impact Read in 2012

Like last year, when I read about Ras Ballenger from The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield, the character of Christian Brother Ryder in The Whipping Club, by Deborah Henry had my stomach in knots. Moreover, Adrian’s story and the abuse and suffering he endured while under the care of Brother Ryder (and the two nuns) is something that will never leave me. A very powerful story, not an easy read, but an astonishing and important one.

Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer, A Good American by Alex George and A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash also left significant impressions on me simply for their beautiful and glorious quality of writing and the fantastic stories they told. Again, more honourable mentions in this category are required as, The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew and The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis, along with Faith, by Jennifer Haigh all left indeliable impressions on me.

So, there’s my take on what turned out to be a fabulous year in reading! I’m interested in hearing from you about your most memorable and best read books from last year are too!