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Stand-Out Books of 2012!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

It is now time for the third annual Stand-Out Books of the Year (2012) post!

Despite working full-time and never seeming to have quite as much time as I want to read, I’m happy to say that I DID top last year’s stats by a bit. Interested? Okay, then, here goes the numbers for 2012:

How many books did I read?

190

That is 19 more than in 2011.

How many pages did I read?

61,957

That is 6,920 more than in 2011!!!

How many pages (on average) did I read per day?

170

That is 19 more than in 2011!!!

Just in case you don’t have a general idea how this post works: I am incapable of naming any of the books I read in the year “my favorite”. I get hung up on different categories, different titles, different strengths and weaknesses of each book. You really wouldn’t want to see that. There are tears. There is guilt. It’s not pretty.

Instead, I look over all the books I read all year and pick the books that stand out to me. This doesn’t …

Girl of Nightmares

Girl of Nightmares is the YA paranormal sequel to Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood.

You know the drill, book lovers. If you haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood yet then read that review here, and avoid this review like the plague!!! Got it? Okay, I’m trusting you…

Girl of Nightmares takes place months after Anna Dressed in Blood ended. Months since the ghost of Anna Korlov, a strong young woman cursed to be a bloody menace after death, opened a door to the afterlife in her basement to pull the evil spirit of the Obeahman though.

She sacrificed herself for Cas and his friends.

Though Carmel and Thomas try to tell him that moping and resisting moving on is not what Anna disappeared through that hole for, Cas can’t seem to stop himself. He misses her. And, impossibly, he loves her…

But when he starts to see Anna everywhere, always with dead eyes, always in some sort of agony, Cas becomes convinced that she’s trying to tell him something. And he’s worried that she’s not at peace.

Whe…

The Far West

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!!! If any of you lucky ducks received gift cards or cash and would like some awesome recommendations on what to spend it on, make sure to remember and stop in at the Bibliophile Support Group on Monday, December 31st for the third annual Stand-Out Books of the Year post!

The Far West is the third YA frontier fantasy/adventure novel in the Frontier Magic series by Patricia C. Wrede.

The series started with Thirteenth Child and then went on to Across the Great Barrier, if you haven’t read those books I’d recommend clicking on the titles and reading those reviews instead of this one. Don’t wanna spoil anything for ya!!!

For those of you bibliophiles who are up-to-date on the series, you’ll remember that Eff proved herself to be quite the powerful magician when her traveling party went beyond the Great Barrier in the last book – meeting dangerous saber cats, steam dragons, and an entirely unknown species that they’ve named the medusa lizard because …

Queen of Babble

Merry Christmas Eve, everybody!

Queen of Babble is an adult contemporary novel by Meg Cabot.

I know I’m way behind here. This is one of the few Cabot novels/series I got sidetracked on. Happily, though, I’m finally getting caught up!! So, this may just be review for you – but if you’re a bibliophile who, like me, finds that a few gems get lost in the shuffle, join me in taking a look at an older title today!

Lizzie Nichols has just become the first person to graduate college in her family. She’s lost thirty pounds, and she’s taking her first trip outside of the US to join her hot British boyfriend in London.

Life’s good.

Or is it?

First she finds out that her graduation is a farce since she never wrote a thesis. Then she gets herself in an overall terrible situation in London because her biggest flaw is her inability to keep her mouth shut.

Feeling rather deflated, Lizzie decides to join her best friend Shari who is spending her summer at a sixteenth-century chateau in France. Sure, L…

Lies Beneath

Lies Beneath is a YA paranormal novel by Anne Greenwood Brown.

Calder White is a merman. Not the Disney kind. When he’s not living in the warm waters of the Bahamas he’s being called back to his home of the cold, clean waters of Lake Superior where his sisters, otherwise known as murderous mermaids, live.

To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans to absorb their positive energy. It’s instinctual and impossible to resist. Except for Calder. He finds a kind of warped satisfaction out of holding off as long as possible – battling the strong urge to kill. Though he’s done it before – how could he not?

This time, though, Calder cannot deny the pull to target their next victim. Revenge is practically part of mermaid DNA and the man they blame for their mother’s death, Jason Hancock, is back in the Lake Superior area. That’s something they cannot ignore. In fact, they don’t want to.

Because Hancock is fearful of the water, Calder’s sisters decide that Calder must be the one to lure …

Invisible World

Invisible World is a YA supernatural historical fiction novel by Suzanne Weyn.

Since a very young age Elsabeth James has known she had powers – sometimes hearing people’s thought, seeing their memories. In 1681 England this is a dangerous thing – that’s why her father is working hard to study her and her sister who also has gifts and put scientific facts behind it. He wants his daughters to be safe.

Elsabeth primarily wants to learn how to control and increase her abilities. Her goal is to be an independent woman, perhaps paid for her gifts by individual clients. She wants to be financially self-sustaining and not have to worry about marriage.

When her father decides to take them to America, however, tragedy strikes. Unfortunate events lead Elsabeth to be washed ashore in South Carolina where she falls in love with a young man who works on the plantation as a slave.

But their relationship catches the attention of the wrong people, and against her will Elsabeth is sent to Salem, Massa…

Dust Girl

Dust Girl is a YA historical fantasy, and the first in the American Fairy Trilogy, by Sarah Zettel.

In 1935 Kansas, the dust is stifling. Callie LaRoux is dying from the buildup of dust in her lungs, though it’s not been acknowledged outright. Not many people remain in town as this dust storm is the worst on record… when the doctor himself decides to move his family elsewhere he pleads with Callie and her mother to leave with them.

Yet Callie’s mother is steadfast – she will not leave the hotel they own, even with no guests or employees to occupy it but the two of them.

Callie knows her mother’s reason. This is where her mother last saw her father, a man that she’s never met. He is their biggest secret. The dark color of his skin has left Callie with a dangerously ambiguous darker coloring that leads her mother to lie about her father – to protect Callie. Her mother is determined to stay at the hotel, no matter what comes, because it is where her father said he’d return to them.

But …

All Things New

All Things New is a historical fiction novel by Lynn Austin.

The Civil War has just come to a demoralizing close for the South. So many died. Land has been destroyed. And a way of life has been crumbled…

Josephine Weatherly is struggling to return to her previous position of eldest daughter in a privileged household when her family returns to their Virginia plantation. Everything is a shell of its former self. Just like her. Her spirit, her faith has been shattered – her father and oldest brother are dead. The return home of her remaining brother Daniel is no help – he’s even more bitter and broken than she is.

Eugenia, Josephine’s mother, clings to the hope that she can get things back up on their feet, especially now that her son is back. She wants to make sure her daughters are married to good husbands soon, as there aren’t many young men left. But her wish to get the plantation back to its prosperous past is halted by the fact that very few of their former slaves have remained.

Li…

Flirting in Italian

Flirting in Italian is a YA contemporary with a splash of mystery by Lauren Henderson.

Violet has always known she’s looked nothing like her Scottish father and Scandinavian mother. Her darker skin, eyes, and hair have always appeared more Italian, Mediterranean… something different. But she’s never felt like her parents’ were hiding anything from her either.

Yet when she visits a museum near her London home, she’s riveted by her a painting of a young female Italian aristocrat – who could be her twin. Even the museum employees can see the stunning similarity – as if she was looking in a mirror with a period costume on.

Unable to get it off her mind, she decides to search for more information, as the painter was anonymous. Convincing her mom that she wants to go to Italy for a study course to get her into university was an easy enough thing.

Once she’s in Italy though, she’s distracted by the utter beauty around her – including the Italian boys that lavish attention and admiration on …

Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey is a historical fiction novel in the vein of Jane Austen, but with a magical twist, by Mary Robinette Kowal.

I absolutely adore Jane Austen, the Regency period, and magic/fantasy so I was super excited about this book. And I have to say: I was really pleased!!

Jane Ellsworth is toeing old maid territory, unmarried at eight and twenty. Her plain face and lack of social charms makes it unlikely for her status to change. Her fluttering heart when the gentlemanly neighbor Mr. Dunkirk calls is to be ignored and stuffed away – an impossibility that only the impractical heart could hope for.

Especially when her younger sister Melody is such a vision of loveliness! Eligible suitors vie for her attentions almost constantly.

At some things Jane is the better, though. Painting, music, and those ladylike pursuits. And most exceptional is her work with glamour. Glamour is essentially magic, and utilizing its skill to bring enhancements to art or coziness to a manor is soug…

The Warlock

The Warlock is the fifth title in the YA fantasy adventure series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott.

If you haven’t read the series yet up to this point, I recommend avoiding this review’s inevitable spoilers. You can check out my review of the first book, The Alchemyst, here as well as find reviews of the other books on the Bibliophile Support Group.

I’m trusting that only seasoned Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel readers are continuing from here…

Sophie just watched her twin brother Josh turn away from her – leave her behind and follow Dr. John Dee and the mysterious Virginia Dare. Devastated and concerned, she wants to rescue him – to figure out why he would make a decision like that.

Yet the Flamel’s are dying – Nicholas is fading fast. And the day that the Elders will bring about their disastrous return is drawing near…

In the meantime, Scatty, Joan, Saint-Germain, Palamedes, and Shakespeare are all pulled back in time to the moment before Danu T…

At Every Turn

At Every Turn is a Christian historical fiction novel by Ann Mateer.

In 1916, twenty-year-old Alyce Benson is back home after being in school in Chicago. She’s thrilled to be near her father’s automobiles again, as she harbors a secret passion for driving – fast. Their mechanic, Webster, is also a friend to her – helping to keep her passion supplied with road trips and a friendly, non-judgmental demeanor. She never hears about not being ladylike from him.

Another reason she’s happy to be home is to return to her church. Despite her parents’ lack of belief, Alyce’s lovely grandmother made an impression on her very young, and Alyce is determined to use her life to do God’s will.

That’s why, when African missionaries discuss their work one Sunday, she recklessly pledges three thousand dollars to their cause. She just can’t look at the pictures of small African children without feeling compelled to help them learn about the Lord.

Only problem? She doesn’t have three thousand dollars, her …

Dear America: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

Dear America: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie is a young reader’s historical fiction novel by Kristiana Gregory.

In 1847 Missoura, Thirteen-year-old Hattie Campbell has seen much tragedy at her young age. Her two older sisters died, and now her uncle perished in an accident. This has spurred her father to decide that their family needs to find a fresh start.

Selling almost all they own, Hattie and her family head toward Oregon City on the Oregon Trail. It feels like an exciting adventure at first, though Hattie’s mother is terribly upset about the move, until reality sets in.

Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. It feels like the trip will never end. And they’re bombarded with death, illness, bad weather, and an extremely coarse landscape that take a toll on the entire traveling party.

Hattie begins to wonder if all of her family will make it alive to Oregon…

I read many of the Dear America series when I was younger, and am pleased to see Scholastic releasing them agai…

Winter White

Winter White is the second novel in the YA contemporary fiction Belles series by Jen Calonita.

If you haven’t read Belles yet (review here) then you should avoid this review until you do.

If you have, read on fair bibliophile, read on…

By the end of Belles, fish-out-of-water Izzie Scott found out that her never-before-heard-of wealthy politician uncle that took her from her home in gritty Harborside, South Carolina, to ritzy Emerald Cove, South Carolina, when her grandmother became too ill to care for her was actually her FATHER.

Still reeling from the news, she and Mira Monroe (sister instead of cousin!) find themselves unable to reconcile with him. Except for the cameras. His campaign continues, after all, and this is the kind of revelation that can ruin a good primary. Yet somehow their true feelings keep finding their way to the press anyway.

While they try to smile for the public, the family drama is overflowing at home. When cotillion, an event that Mira has dreamed of since sh…

The Diviners

The Diviners is the first in a new YA historical supernatural series by best-selling author Libba Bray.

I am a HUGE fan of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. When it comes to my foray into her contemporary fiction? Almost a completely opposite reaction. So, when I heard about The Diviners I was hesitantly excited because I hoped it would remind me more of the former, not the latter. In fact, maybe it could make me forget all about Beauty Queens.

Maybe you’re a fan of that book. That’s great! I wasn’t, sadly, at all.

What’s The Diviners about?

Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is a little too much of a wild child flapper for her hometown to contain, and as much as she tries to make herself normal she never seems to be able to. And this time she’s really gotten herself into a pickle.

She has a supernatural power that’s brought her nothing but pickles so far – and this latest round of excitement led her to drunkenly declare one of the town’s most admired young men of knocking up the maid. …

Fathomless

Fathomless is a YA modern fairytale retelling by Jackson Pearce.

I read Sweetly last year (read my review here) by Jackson Pearce, which was a retelling of Hansel and Gretel - and AWESOME. Though Fathomless is technically a stand-alone title, it has threads of continuity with Sweetly as well as with the author’s first fairytale retelling Sisters Red, which I haven’t gotten the chance to read yet but will be ASAP. Because of this thread of continuity I do recommend starting with Sisters Red, then Sweetly, and then getting to Fathomless.

But here’s some info on Fathomless:

Lo doesn’t remember who she is. Her name is one she’s chosen because she has no memory of her real one, or the life she had as a human. Before she was a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid… It’s all a hazy blur. One thing she does know is that she and her sister sea creatures are becoming something not beautiful… something monstrous.

Celia is a triplet. She and her sisters have only ever had each other, but she’s always f…

The Deadly Sister

The Deadly Sister is a YA mystery thriller by Eliot Schrefer.

Her entire life Abby Goodwin has covered for her younger sister Maya. Even after Maya stopped liking her, maybe even hating her. But Abby just couldn’t stop protecting her from broken curfews, failed classes, and the trouble caused by having druggy friends.

When Maya’s latest kinda-boyfriend shows up dead – murdered – Abby doesn’t know how much she can cover for her anymore.

But she’s going to try.

Abby attempts desperately to clear her sister’s name as the police close in on Maya. She figures the best way to prove her innocent is to prove someone else guilty.

Yet it’s harder than she thinks as she learns she can’t trust anyone… not even those she wants to.

The Deadly Sister was fraught with tension immediately. It doesn’t hesitate in jumping into the edgy drama of murder and whodunit questions, which I love.

Sadly, at some point I had accidentally seen a comment on The Deadly Sister that led me to believe I might know a BIG

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is a YA steampunk alternative-Victorian-era adventure novel, the second in The Steampunk Chronicles, by Kady Cross.

Yes, it’s the second book in a series. You know the drill! If you haven’t read The Girl in the Steel Corset first, then read that review here instead.

ONLY READERS WHO WON’T BE SPOILED KEEP READING…

Alrighty then! Let’s go over a brief synopsis first:

When at the end of The Girl in the Steel Corset sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her “straynge band of misfits” watched as their American friend Jasper was hauled off by bounty hunters, they knew they weren’t going to take that lying down!

After all, this is Finley Jayne, the girl with Jekyll/Hyde complex that is working to combine her two natures into one – with shocking strength and happily violent tendencies, all for the greater good of course. There’s Griffin, the powerful and wealthy English duke that found her and his ability to manipulate the Aether. Emily, their Irish lass with an …

The Forsaken

The Forsaken is a YA dystopia written by Lisa M. Stasse.

It’s been six years since sixteen-year-old Alenna Shawcross became a ward of the government of the UNA, a new nation formed from what was left of the USA, Mexico and Canada. Six years since she watched her parents get ripped from their home, dragged away by government soldiers. She assumes they’re dead.

Relatively introverted and mostly unnoticed, Alenna has been getting by fine – doing well in school and so on. That’s why she knows, as the day approaches, that she’ll pass the government personality test designed to detect subversive, criminal tendencies that everybody has to undergo at the age of sixteen.

She’s wrong.

When Alenna wakes up on the Wheel, the mysterious island where all kids who fail the test are sent, she’s scared to death. She’s sure there’s been a mistake, as she’s never had a rebellious, violent thought in her life. And the thought that the island is stuffed full of those who do frightens her.

But when Alenna …

Taken by Storm

Taken by Storm is a remarkable YA werewolf novel, and the third in the exceptional Raised by Wolves series, written by the unparalleled Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Are my word choices making my opinion clear already?

Maybe that’s because I frickin’ LOVEDTaken by Storm just as much as Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire!!! This is, in my humble, psychotically bibliophile opinion, by FAR the best werewolf series out there.

But, listen to me… I’m getting ahead of myself!

My synopsis will be meager, as I don’t want to give away next to anything about the plot – but even so, I encourage you to avoid this review if you haven’t read the first two books. The reviews of those titles are linked to their names above.

Now, for you fellow Raised by Wolves fans, let us continue…

Bryn is unique in many ways. She’s the alpha of the Cedar Ridge werewolf pack. The only alpha that is female. The only alpha that is young. The only alpha that is human.

This uniqueness makes her a target from the other pack alp…

The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

The Shadow Queen is a novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – a historical fiction by Rebecca Dean.

The name Wallis Simpson sounded faintly familiar to me – but I really had no idea who she was. Once I found out she was a twice-divorced, destitute socialite in the first half of the twentieth century – and that her love affair with Prince Edward caused him to abdicate his throne for her – I was certainly fascinated.

This is a novel of her life, essentially.

Sadly, my interest wasn’t fully satisfied with The Shadow Queen. Wallis’ story felt like it was being told to me, not like it was actually happening. I’m hoping you, my lovely followers, know what I mean by that.

I loved the background and character development we get a chance to see – what with starting the story when Wallis is very, very young – but more often than not I was left wondering if we were ever going to get to the portions of her life as an adult that are hinted at on the back cover. So many pages are spent on wha…

Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift is a middlegrade fantasy novel by Chris Westwood.

Twelve-year-old Ben Harvester has always cared about people. That’s why when one of his strolls through London’s Highgate Cemetary, which he finds soothing and his mother calls morose, brings him across an older man that seems to be having some difficulty, he stops to help.

The man is rather odd however. He calls himself Mr. October and tells Ben he’s sorry to hear about his Aunt. Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Until he gets home and watches as his mom gets the call about her sister’s death. Then he’s fascinated.

Trying to find Mr. October is harder than he thought, though. But once he does, Ben realizes that there is more to London than first meets the eye. Mr. October actually works for a secret organization called the Ministry of Pandemonium – and he wants Ben to be his new recruit.

Among the amazement and awe, Ben also comes face to face with the dark side of his new extracurricular activities – and find…

The Queen's Lady

The Queen’s Lady is a YA-targeted Elizabethan romantic drama, and the second in The Lacey Chronicles, by Eve Edwards.

This is essentially a stand-alone romance, but to have the full background of the characters and not be spoiled about what happens in the first book I would personally recommend reading The Other Countess first. But it’s not as vital as a regular series. You can read my review of The Other Countesshere.

Lady Jane Rievaulx escaped the cruel clutches of her father when a kindly, wealthy older gentleman married her – with only friendship in mind – but now his death has left her vulnerable once more. As much as her deceased husband tried to secure her independence, his greedy sons are determined to take back her portion of the fortune.

Trying to put her trust in her late husband’s will and rise above it all, Jane begins service to the Queen at the Richmond Palace and is stunned, pleasantly, to find Master James Lacey there. He may not know the full reason Jane broke off he…